Many of you have contacted me about the climate and ecological emergency, and the proposed Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill.
The campaigning urgency and creativity as well as the focus and energy of the people of Bristol West to halt climate change and repair our planet’s diversity always inspire me and so many people across the city and the world. I’m honoured to represent people who care so much about our planet.
I agree that we need urgent action to tackle the climate and ecological emergency. The extreme weather events, flash floods, deadly landslides and fires we have seen in recent times make clear that climate breakdown is not a distant threat but something happening here and now. Last year it was Labour MPs in parliament who took the message from environmental campaigners successfully to the government in order to secure a commitment to reaching net-zero carbon emissions – at the time I was part of Labour’s environment team as Whip so it was very satisfying to help take the message of my constituents directly to the government.
As a result of Labour’s challenge, the Government stated that it intends to deliver a greener UK economy and is taking steps to meet its target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Unfortunately, as we know, this is too late. Furthermore, as the Committee on Climate Change’s most recent progress report on emissions reductions makes clear, the gap between even this target and the action needed to achieve it remains far too great.
According to the UN, we have under ten years left to avoid the worst impacts of catastrophic climate change. We must act with far greater urgency, aiming to achieve most of our emissions reductions within the next decade.
Therefore of course I support the aims of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill.
Confronted by this unfolding emergency, obviously 2050 is too late for the UK to end its contribution to climate breakdown and runaway global heating. According to the UN, we have less than ten years left to avoid the worst impacts of catastrophic climate change. Our government must act with far greater urgency and ambition.
Labour is determined that the UK must show global leadership on this issue. We should aim to achieve as much as possible of our carbon emissions reductions by 2030. To do that, we need investment in renewable energy, in diversity, in protection of species and habitats, in changing how we live, work and travel to make our existence in this world and our co-existence with nature sustainable and harmonious.
Nonetheless, the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill is a Presentation Bill. This means it is a Bill that does not provide for a debate or a vote in parliament but is a way of drawing attention to an issue that requires a change in the law.
Together with my colleagues on Labour’s front bench, I will be pushing for the government to dedicate time to bringing forward proper legislation to put many of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill aims into law.
In the Labour Party this is an urgent priority for us as you will have seen in our track record in government and our campaigning in opposition. We will therefore also be developing our own Parliamentary agenda on the climate emergency. This will be done in consultation with our members, activists and specialists in the climate change movement, trade unions, businesses and communities across the country. Our work will reflect and include many of the principles laid out in this Bill and more.
Right now, I want this government to recognise that during the aftermath of the pandemic we need to invest to rapidly decarbonise our economy through an environmentally based recovery. Labour has consistently proposed this throughout the crisis and many other countries have taken the climate emergency focus in their own recoveries.
This requires more than rhetoric from Ministers. It requires a plan so we can invest in the sustainable industries of the future at the same time as we put people back to work in good well-paying jobs in these industries across the country. They must also support workers and communities as we make the transition to a low-carbon and socially-just economy. Such a plan would be a way of this country demonstrating urgent domestic climate ambition with a significantly enhanced 2030 emissions reduction target and showing real leadership as the host of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow next year. Labour will be outlining our vision for a Green Recovery Plan shortly as well, which will provide the government with suggestions and impetus to do a good job of cross-party working.
I can assure you that I will continue to push for the above, and more widely for bold action to tackle the climate and ecological emergency at every opportunity.