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Tackling the climate-nature crisis: Achieving Labour’s joined-up plan

Only a science-based, joined-up plan that leaves no-one behind, supported by legislation that commits us more strongly to meeting the UK’s international climate and biodiversity commitments, will enable the UK to address the climate-nature emergency that is upon us.”—Sherri Johnstone (Chair, New Forest East CLP)

The Climate and Nature Bill now has wide support across the Labour and Co-op movement; including the Parliamentary Labour Party (of MPs and Peers), Constituency Labour Parties, metro mayors—including Sadiq Khan—plus the National Executive Committee, councillors, councils, Social Societies and affiliations.

Zero Hour worked with CLPs across the country to submit Conference motions ahead of Labour’s annual get-together calling for a joined-up, science-led just transition plan that leaves no one behind.

Of all motions submitted by CLPs, the ‘Climate Change & Ecology’ subject was the third largest at 2023’s Conference—and when it came to Conference delegates voting on which subjects to prioritise—it received 72,289 votes from Labour members.

Although ‘Climate Change & Ecology’ didn’t get selected for debate in Liverpool—it ranked 8th and the top 6 were prioritised—this huge show of support for a joined-up plan highlights the serious commitment to climate and environmental action that exists across the Labour grassroots.

The message to—and from—this year’s Labour Conference is clear. Labour members want, and the UK public needs, a joined-up, science-led just transition plan to tackle the climate and ecological emergency we face.

Olivia Blake—MP for Sheffield Hallam and the CAN Bill’s sponsor in the Commons—commented that: “It’s amazing that ‘Climate Change & Ecology’ was the third most submitted motion to this year’s Labour Conference—and then prioritised by over 72,000 Labour delegates—representing thousands more members in local Labour parties across the UK nations.

This shows the huge level of support amongst the Party membership for the CAN Bill, and if Labour is chosen to form the next Government, we must back the CAN Bill—listening to the call from Labour members, affiliates, and the public—who want to see the delivery of a joined-up just transition plan that leaves no one behind.”

Zero Hour at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, 2023

At Zero Hour’s fringe event on ‘Tackling the Climate-Nature Crisis’ in Liverpool—delivered to a packed-out room of over 80 delegates on 8 October—Ruth Jones MP, Shadow Environment Minister, reconfirmed Labour’s commitment to ensure that nature’s destruction is not only halted, but firmly in reverse by 2030. This has been a core focus of Zero Hour’s work over 2022-23—following our United For Nature and Climate & Nature Declaration campaigns—as we called on all parties to commit to this ambition; the apex nature target of the CAN Bill.

On climate, the Labour Policy Forum report to Conference—which CAN Bill supporters across the Labour movement feed into—set out Labour’s ambition to align their energy policies to the UK’s 1.5°C obligations under the Paris Agreement; a pledge which was confirmed by (Shadow Minister for Climate Change) Kerry McCarthy MP at Zero Hour’s event.

As reiterated by Zero Hour champions Dr George McGavin and Prof. Nathalie Pettorelli during Sunday’s event, “Labour has an unique opportunity to be a global climate-nature leader”—and should be preparing to “deliver a prosperous green future via the CAN Bill’s just transition plan.” Being a climate-nature leader requires a science-led strategy, “based on reversing nature loss by 2030” and the UK “keeping to its fair share of the remaining global carbon budget for 1.5°C” and Zero Hour will continue to make the case to Labour and all parties to commit to these essential policies.

Overall, this year’s Labour Conference showed that the commitment to tackle the nature-climate crisis is strong, and is still at the heart of discussions across the Labour movement, especially at the grassroots and across the PLP.

But our work to bring the Conservatives, Labour and SNP over the line, alongside the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, Greens, SDLP and Alliance, will continue at pace.

When the CAN Bill was introduced in the Commons on 10 May, led by Olivia Blake MP with support from all major parties, Ed Miliband MP (Shadow Climate Change Secretary) welcomed Olivia’s leadership of the CAN Bill campaign, calling for “ambitious and urgent action to tackle the climate and environmental emergencies together—and to cut bills, give us energy security, and create good jobs in the process.”

Echoing Ed Miliband’s pledge in Liverpool, Steve Reed MP (Shadow Environment Secretary) said that: “We are nature, and Labour will deliver a plan that links the twinned nature-climate crises together. This is one of the greatest challenges facing this generation, and without nature, there’s no economy, no society, and no growth.”

As Olivia set out on 10 May, and at Conference, “Labour backs the ambition and objectives of this important piece of legislation”–and now it’s time to back the CAN Bill fully, include it in Labour’s 2024 manifesto, and then bring the CAN Bill into reality with a Climate & Nature Act.

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