Shropshire Council has given a commitment to tackle the climate emergency.
In parliament, a private members bill is moving towards its second reading next month. It aims to strengthen the government’s resolve and actions to tackle the growing climate emergency and the devasting loss of biodiversity. A motion tomorrow will ask the council to support the bill. It will be a test of Shropshire Council’s resolve.
Is it up to the mark on tackling the climate and ecological emergencies? Will the whipped Tory majority reject it? Council leader Peter Nutting is in the camp that wants to fudge climate change commitments. But his portfolio holder Dean Carroll has a stronger belief in the need for change. It is over to Dean to deliver tomorrow.
The Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) bill is a Private Members’ Bill. It makes sense. It ticks just about all the boxes on tackling the climate emergency and beginning to restore ecology richness across the UK. Because it is not government legislation, the chances are it will fall before this parliamentary session ends in late April. Some private member’s bills succeed if they have government backing. Some are barely noticed and are never heard of again. In between those two outcomes are the bills that shape minds, influence lawmakers and whose principles are eventually enshrined in other legislation. There is a chance that if there is sufficient public pressure the government will adopt the bill. But it is more likely that Boris Johnson, forever the grandstander, will want to get a signature climate bill to be approved on eve of COP26 in November. He can then fly to join the world leaders, NGOs, reporters and influencers that have flown into the Glasgow to argue that we should cut our carbon emissions including by, cough, cough, not flying so much.
This political context is important. Conservatives are notoriously reluctant to sign up for any motions, policies or laws if they did not originate from their caucus. When early day motion was laid before parliament last September to “express profound alarm at the climate and ecological emergency, with wildfires raging in California, and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica melting in line with worst case scenario predictions for sea level rise” not a single Conservative signed it. That’s par for the course.
The CCE Bill has roots grounded in a campaign by Extinction Rebellion and green leaning politicians who have called for a Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill. The Bill is sponsored by Caroline Lucas, our country’s only Green Party MP.
The bill is driven by the realisation – not a new one – that we must implement deeper carbon cuts sooner. It is easy to think the UK is a flagship after it has legislated in 2019 for net zero emissions by 2050. But we need to stride faster because global warming is spinning out of control.
There will be many who argue that we should not do anything while other countries are sloth like in their efforts to reduce carbon emissions and progress towards net zero. That’s about leadership. Since Tony Blair’s days, Britain has claimed it is a world leader in climate change. Our scientists have made some of the most important contributions to the understanding of the climate and ecological emergency, and to ensuring the public understands the climate and ecological emergency.
The CEE bill will ensure that:
- The UK’s full carbon footprint is considered, including all of the emissions linked to the production and transport of goods from overseas that we consume here.
- Natural solutions are used instead of Negative Emissions Technology that may not work at scale and offer a false sense of reassurance.
- The focus should on nature as much as climate, protecting and conserving habitats and species in the UK.
- Citizens are given a say in how we move forward, building on the success of the UK’s Climate Assembly.
Here are the bill’s ten objectives in more detail:
- Ensure that the UK contributes fairly to climate mitigation consistent with limiting global temperatures increase to 1.5°C (compared to average pre-industrial levels).
- Ensure that the UK takes full responsibility in accounting for its entire greenhouse gas footprint (consumption emissions, passenger international shipping, flights, and land-based transport) domestically and internationally.
- Ensure that the UK first and foremost reduces its anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, to the point of cessation (zero), at energy sources.
- Ensure that any negative emissions technologies may only be considered with proven efficacy and stringent safeguarding against any negative impacts on any ecosystems.
- Ensure the restricted conditions for proposed negative emissions’ technologies for the purpose of carbon offsetting only when all alternative carbon neutral approaches have been primarily pursued. Negative emissions technologies must not be factored into prospective mitigation pathways as a substitute for societal decarbonisation.
- Ensure that the UK abides by annual national carbon budgets and in enacting the transition to a carbon neutral economy the burden must not fall on the poorest in society.
- Ensure that the UK restores and regenerates its habitats by implementing robust measures to protect and enhance the variety, abundance and health of soils and biodiversity in both rural and urban/human-modified ecosystems and in so doing, enriches natural carbon sinks.
- Ensure that the UK implements conditions that protect health and resilience of ecosystems along both domestic and UK global supply chains (including extraction of natural resources, land degradation, pollution, and waste), and thus mitigate the UK’s ecological footprint.
- Ensure that independent bodies create benchmark standards to robustly evaluate the progress of the UK’s climate mitigation and ecological protection and restoration pathways
- Ensure that the strategy and solutions to enact this law are thoroughly democratic: a citizens’ assembly – randomly selected but representative sample of the UK population – to work alongside Government, under the scrutiny of Parliament.
The motion to be debated by Shropshire Council on 25 February 2020
The following motion has been received from Councillor Julian Dean and is supported by Councillor Kate Halliday and the Liberal Democrat Group.
Support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill
Humans have already caused irreversible climate change, the impacts of which are being felt in the UK and around the world. Global temperatures have increased by 1 degree Celsius from pre-industrial levels. Atmospheric CO2 levels are above 400 parts per million (ppm) and continue to rise. This far exceeds the 350 ppm deemed to be a safe level for humanity.
Without more significant and sustained action, the world is set to exceed the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit between 2030 and 2040. Therefore the current UK target of net zero by 2050 is not satisfactory. It is too little too late.
The increase in harm caused by a rise of 2°C rather than 1.5°C is significant. This is described by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C published in October 2018. According to the IPCC, limiting heating to 1.5°C may still be possible with ambitious action from national and sub-national authorities, civil society, the private sector and local communities. The costs of failing to address this crisis will far outstrip the investments required to prevent it. Investing now will bring many benefits in the form of good jobs, breathable cities and thriving communities.
Council notes that
(i) This council has declared a climate emergency;
(ii) Many local authorities have established Citizens’ Assemblies that are playing an important role in assisting them in their plans to achieve net zero by 2030 or before; and that
(iii) There is a Bill before Parliament—the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (published as the “Climate and Ecology Bill”)—according to which the Government must develop an emergency strategy that:
- requires that the UK plays its fair and proper role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial temperatures;
- ensures that all the UK’s consumption emissions are accounted for;
- includes emissions from aviation and shipping;
- protects and restores biodiverse habitats along overseas supply chains;
- restores and regenerates the UK’s depleted soils, wildlife habitats and species populations to healthy and robust states, maximising their capacity to absorb CO2and their resistance to climate heating;
- sets up an independent Citizens’ Assembly, representative of the UK’s population, to engage with Parliament and Government and help develop the emergency strategy.
Council therefore resolves to:
(i) Support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill
(ii) Inform the local media of this decision;
(iii) Write to local MPs, asking them to support the Bill; and