Standard Reply 1

Analysing MP Replies

We are monitoring replies from MPs about the CEE Bill. This is such an important subject, it’s vital to ensure that our MPs are fully briefed, and that any misunderstandings are ironed out.

Standard Reply 1

This is the first of a number of standard replies received by constituents.

Dear

Deleted Name

Thank you for contacting me about the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill.

I understand that this Bill has been developed by campaign members of Extinction Rebellion, Big Ask and Power for the People.

The bill was in fact developed by a coalition of eminent scientists, academics and lawyers as well as campaigners, and is attracting wide support from concerned citizens and organisations from across the political spectrum. List of expert contributors.
Let me be clear; tackling climate change is a priority for me and my Ministerial colleagues.
We welcome this assurance yet Government action too frequently suggests otherwise. The continued commitment to HS2 with its price tag of circa £100bn, compared to the £4bn committed to the recent environmental “Ten Point Plan” is just one example.
I am proud that the UK was the first G7 country to legislate to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. While I can understand that you want this target to be achieved sooner, and I share this desire, getting to net zero by 2050 is feasible and consistent with avoiding most damaging climate change.

We welcome that the UK took the first step with the Climate Change Act of 2008. However, Net Zero by 2050 is now considered by most independent scientists to be too late to be confident of avoiding temperatures exceeding the critical 1.5ºC set out in the Paris Agreement. Beyond 1.5ºC, we risk seeing global heating run out of control due to breach of various tipping points.

Tipping points explainer video - Prof Tim Lenton, Exeter University


Furthermore, the 2050 target was only ever proposed on the understanding that deep cuts would be made immediately, buying us time to continue emitting carbon for a little longer. This did not happen, and does not appear likely in the coming year. So we are burning through our remaining carbon allowance far too quickly, leaving us with less time to reach net zero.

Aiming for zero emissions by 2030 is almost certainly impossible, hugely disruptive and risks undermining consensus.

Unfortunately climate change obeys the laws of physics, not the laws of governments, economics or social acceptability. So yes, we need disruptive urgent change, but that also means creating huge new employment opportunities in the green sector which will power our post-covid recovery. It means cleaner air and warmer, healthier homes. The price tag will be high, but the cost of burying our heads in the sand will be far far greater in terms of flooding, mass migration, crop failure and storm damage. Read more.

Of course 2030 may now be too difficult. But what’s clear is that we need to step out of our comfort zone and cut emissions as fast as humanly possible, and well before 2050. We are now paying the price of having ignored the scientific advice for decades. Every delay now, even months, will only make the changes needed more drastic still.

Climate change is an emotive issue, but a cross-community consensus will be required to ensure the UK achieves a transition that works for all.
This is exactly why the CEE Bill proposes a Citizens’ Assembly which would help move the national debate forwards and give Parliament the popular mandate it needs to take difficult decisions.  This jury-like body of ordinary people informed by scientists and academics would be tasked with reaching consensus on recommendations to tackle the crisis. MPs would still have the final say though, ensuring that Parliament remains sovereign.
I note that the Bill seeks to examine the UK’s global carbon footprint, such as indirect UK emissions in our supply chain which may affect developing countries. I am encouraged that the UK remains committed to environmentally sustainable development as set out in the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals.

According to a WWF 2020 report, nearly half of the UK’s carbon footprint involves overseas emissions which we do not currently recognise. This is primarily because we have outsourced so much of our production to countries like China. These emissions are caused by our purchase decisions so we clearly can’t ignore them. We also don’t count international aviation or shipping emissions. Accounting for such emissions will help to drive change, including encouraging more manufacturing to happen here in the UK – what’s not to like about that?

The Millennium Development Goals mentioned above are nothing to do with the UK’s global carbon footprint. They were about eradicating global poverty. So this question has not been addressed at all.

In September 2019 the Prime Minister committed to doubling the UK’s International Climate Finance over the next five years which I hope will enable the UK to play an active part in protecting the environment and reversing biodiversity loss.

The UK gave £4.6bn to overseas fossil fuel projects between 2010 and 2017, which is incompatible with the country’s climate and development goals.

More than half of the support for energy projects abroad went on fossil fuels during the period. By comparison, just 17 per cent was spent on renewables, according to an analysis by Catholic charity CAFOD and thinktank ODI.

“It’s a bit of a no-brainer if we want to get to net zero and keep below 1.5°C, we shouldn’t be using public money for fossil fuels,” says Sarah Wykes of CAFOD. Read more in New Scientist.

On conservation, the UK is on course to protect over half of our waters. We now have 357 Marine Protected Areas of different types and no activities deemed damaging to designated features will be allowed to take place in these areas.

Industrial bottom trawlers are systematically breaking the law while fishing in the Dogger Bank and directly destroying the Dogger Bank’s protected feature, the seabed, which is in “unfavourable” condition. There are no permanent restrictions on fishing activity in the Dogger Bank protected area, making it protected in name only. 

WWF, Client Earth and other NGOs lodged an official legal complaint against the UK, Dutch and German Governments in 2019 over their failure to properly protect the Dogger Bank from bottom trawling. Greenpeace has been campaigning for a ban. Read more at WWF.

I do not believe citizens’ assemblies have advantages over conventional policy making in this context. Previous experiences in Canada, for instance, included citizens in the decision-making process but they failed to produce impactful or long-lasting results.
The Canadian Citizens’ Assembly failed to deliver because it was poorly publicised. Other Citizens’ Assemblies have produced excellent results, particularly the Irish Assembly on Abortion 2018 which broke years of political deadlock. The 2020 French Citizens’ Assembly followed many months of ‘gilets jaune’ civil unrest.
We have seen that business-as-usual from governments all across the world just have not delivered the action needed on climate change. A Citizens’ Assembly will empower MPs to take bold decisions and allow people to have a real say in the pathway to a fair and just transition to a zero carbon society and a thriving natural world.
I know that a Climate Assembly UK was formed as a result of work conducted by Parliamentary Select Committees. Ministers have assured me the Government will be looking closely at the findings however I welcome that many of their recommendations, which were published in their report, are already either in place or in the pipeline as a result of the Government working towards net zero. Achieving net zero will affect everyone and it is important that we work together to achieve it.

This was a welcome step, but three major flaws mean its effect has been very limited:

  1. there was no obligation for recommendations to be debated by parliament, and a large number were simply ignored;
  2. the Government’s did not permit the CA UK to question its net zero emissions target of 2050, widely regarded as way too late; and
  3. the CA UK was not called upon to consider adaptation or biodiversity.

We need a properly publicised Citizens’ Assembly, convened with the full backing of the Government.

While I welcome the increased awareness and debate this Bill brings, I do not believe that it is required as work is already underway.

We have demonstrated that this is just not true.

While Mr Johnson creates jobs and cuts carbon dioxide with one hand, he’s either increasing emissions – or leaving them uncut – in at least 10 other areas. These are road-building, SUVs, high-speed rail, aviation, overseas finance, oil and gas, coal mining, farming, meat-eating and peat.’ Roger Harrabin for the BBC

As most other countries around the world, UK is falling far short of the action needed. We don’t have any time to wait. We must act now, setting an example and urging other countries to follow.