UK parliament declares climate emergency

Parliament has backed a Labour motion to declare that an environment and climate emergency faces the UK.


The UK parliament said that to avoid a rise in excess of 1.5 degrees in global warming, global emissions would need to fall by around 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero by around 2050.

The motion also noted the “devastating impact that volatile and extreme weather will have on UK food production” and that the country was missing almost all of its biodiversity targets.

It called on the government to achieve net zero emissions before 2050, and “to increase support for and set ambitious, short-term targets for the roll-out of renewable and low carbon energy and transport, and to move swiftly to capture economic opportunities and green jobs in the low carbon economy while managing risks for workers and communities currently reliant on carbon intensive sectors”.

Opening the debate, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “We have no time to waste. We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control unless we take rapid and dramatic action now. 

“This is no longer about a distant future; we are talking about nothing less than the irreversible destruction of the environment within the lifetimes of members [of Parliament].”

For the government, environment secretary Michael Gove told MPs; “I want to make it clear that the government recognise the situation we face is an emergency. It is a crisis, and it is a threat that we must all unite to meet.”

The debate followed publication in The Guardian newspaper of a proposed ‘green deal’ by former Labour leader Ed Miliband, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and former Conservative MP Laura Sandys.

This called for the mobilisation of “a carbon army of workers to retrofit and insulate homes, cutting bills, reducing emissions and making people’s lives better”.

The trio also urged moves to sustainable forms of transport and zero-carbon vehicles, an end to opposition to onshore wind power and for the UK to become a global centre of excellence for renewable manufacturing.

Meanwhile, leading European businesses, investors and business networks urged governments to put climate change at the top of the European Union’s agenda to provide businesses with the confidence needed to invest in sustainable, net zero industries.

In an open letter, signatories including Unilever chief executive Alan Jope and John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport Holdings, said: “Every year more of us are setting science-based targets for our companies’ emissions, we are purchasing clean energy and signing up to renewable energy commitments, using low emission and electric vehicles, converting land to carbon sinks and improving energy efficiency throughout our operations.

‘We are doing this because we see the threat that climate change poses to our businesses. The impacts of climate change are already affecting our bottom lines: degrading worker health and productivity, disrupting our operations and supply chains, and damaging assets… A clear, coherent vision from European governments and institutions for climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest will give businesses like ours the long-term guidance we need to invest.”


Image credit | iStock

Mark Smulian is a freelance journalist

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