What is Zero Hour’s United For Nature campaign seeking to achieve?
Zero Hour has launched a campaign, United For Nature, to put pressure on the UK Government to publish and achieve a (new, holistic and science-driven) nature target.
The nature target is the same target from the Climate & Ecology Bill, which remains Zero Hour’s core focus. It would require the UK Government to both halt and reverse nature loss by 2030 (against a 2020 baseline).
As part of building support for the target, and to apply pressure on the Government to enact it, Zero Hour has launched an e-petition to grow public support. The e-petition is directed at the Prime Minister, and is being championed by Dr Mya-Rose Craig. Please click here to promote it on Twitter.
In the UK Parliament, where the Climate & Ecology Bill is currently before the House of Lords, its sponsor, Lord Redesdale, amended the bill during its committee stage on 18 November to focus solely on the nature target. This amended version of the bill is now referred to as the Ecology Bill.
While Zero Hour focuses on the nature target through the Ecology Bill in the House of Lords, the full Climate and Ecology Bill will be introduced again in the House of Commons.
What is the Ecology Bill?
Having successfully amended the bill at committee stage—where it was supported by Baroness Blake (on behalf of the Labour Frontbench), Lord Randall (Con), Baroness Hooper (Con) and Lord Green (Crossbench)—the bill before the House of Lords is now the Ecology Bill.
Its refined focus allows Lord Redesdale, and other supporting Peers, to work together in pressuring Ministers to adopt one specific, particular issue—its nature target. Lord Redesdale’s hope, as he explained at committee stage—and as he outlined in an article for PoliticsHome—is that this singular focus is beneficial for this type of private members’ bill.
Focussing on one issue—the need for a 2030 nature loss reversal target—gives Lord Redesdale a higher chance of success at this point in time, and would be an important first step towards seeing the full Climate and Ecology Bill enshrined in law.
So why pursue the Ecology Bill now?
Given the delay in the publication of the environmental targets required by the Environment Act 2021, and ahead of the UN CBD COP15 (biodiversity) summit in December, this is an opportune moment to seek to persuade Ministers to incorporate the Ecology Bill’s nature target into UK law.
The 2030 target proposed by the Ecology Bill has the same ambition as stated by the UK Government across dozens of policy documents—and is the same ambition being pursued by Ministers ahead of COP15. Lord Redesdale’s committee stage briefing for Peers explains this in more detail.
This nature target focus, while shining a light on the often underrepresented half of the climate-nature emergency, will (as ever in Zero Hour’s work) provide an opportunity to promote the interconnectedness of the crises—and the urgency of restoring nature in order to mitigate and adapt to the worst impacts of the climate emergency.
Don’t we already have targets in the Environment Act 2021?
In answer to a recent parliamentary question (BEIS Minister) Lord Callanan said that: “the Environment Act 2021 commits the Government to halting the decline in species in England by 2030, in addition to setting at least one long term target for biodiversity.”
However, NGOs have warned that with these targets, the UK wildlife could actually be in a worse state than it is now by 2042. We therefore need to ensure that we don’t just ‘halt’ but that we bend the curve—’reverse’ loss—and see nature actively in recovery. This means not just species, but habitats and ecosystems.
Our target is in line with the UK Government’s COP15 ambition for a ‘nature positive’ future. It would ensure that the UK halts and reverses its overall contribution to the degradation and loss of nature in the UK and overseas—by increasing the health, abundance, diversity and resilience of species, populations, habitats and ecosystems—so that by 2030, and measured against a baseline of 2020, nature is visibly and measurably on the path of recovery.
The definition of ‘nature’ in the bill is the abundance, diversity and distribution of animal, plant, fungal and microbial life, the extent and condition of habitats, and the health and integrity of ecosystems. Top UK scientists and experts have advised Zero Hour on the definitions above, including Professor EJ Milner-Gulland (Oxford University).
Why is this important?
The UK is one of the most nature-deleted countries in the world. We need Earth’s interconnected natural support systems: atmosphere, oceans, freshwater systems, land, soils and biodiversity. These vital systems provide our food, air, clean water and shelter. They also regulate the climate.
If we don’t protect nature, scientists have mapped critical ecosystems containing irrecoverable stocks of carbon, most of which is stored in mangroves, peatlands, old-growth forests and marshes across the world, including the UK’s peatlands. If these ecosystems are allowed to reach tipping points they will release enormous amounts of carbon, risking irreversible climate breakdown.
COP27 recognised that we can’t solve the climate crisis without saving nature. Nature provides our best chance of mitigating climate change and its worst impacts, such as flooding and drought. Protecting ecosystems that regulate climate or contain critical carbon stores such as ice sheets, forests, peatlands, wetlands and the ocean, must take equal priority with cutting emissions. These areas are also some of the richest remaining areas of biodiversity.
What happens after COP15?
Zero Hour supports Lord Redesdale’s efforts to use his opportunity of advancing the (now amended) Ecology Bill to pressure the Government into action ahead of, during, and after COP15.
Having successfully passed its committee stage hurdle, the Ecology Bill will now pass through its remaining stages in the House of Lords, before being passed to the House of Commons; where (Con) Sir Roger Gale MP has offered to ‘pick it up’.
Zero Hour will be seeking to persuade all MPs to support the bill at this point, as part of making the case to the UK Government that the bill should be allocated time to proceed through its stages in the House of Commons.
What does this mean for the Climate & Ecology Bill campaign?
Zero Hour’s primary work and focus is to persuade all UK Parliamentarians and political parties to back the Climate & Ecology Bill. The United For Nature (i.e. Ecology Bill) campaign will directly support these efforts.
We will continue to attract support from politicians, scientists, organisations and members of the public to the campaign for a joined-up, science-led and people-powered strategy to restore nature and reduce UK emissions in line with Britain’s fair share of the remaining global carbon budget for 1.5°C.
This has and will remain our focus in the months ahead. With the help, support and encouragement of Zero Hour’s brilliant campaigners, allies and champions in and out of Westminster, we’re keeping the climate and ecological emergency at the top of the political agenda—and we’ll do everything we can to keep it there.
Where is the status of the Climate & Ecology Bill?
In the House of Commons, the Climate & Ecology Bill has been presented twice by Caroline Lucas MP. First, in the 2019-21 session, and later, in the 2021-22 session—each time with support from MPs from across the House. We remain extremely grateful to Caroline, and to all supporting MPs, for their determination to advance the campaign.
In the current 2022-23 session—whilst Lord Redesdale pursues the bill’s nature target in the House of Lords—the full, joined-up Climate & Ecology Bill will also be introduced in the House of Commons.
This introduction, with support from MPs from all major parties, is expected to take place before 2023. It is as part of working to ensure that the maximum number of MPs are persuaded to support the bill—and that a commitment to introduce a Climate & Ecology Bill is included in every major party’s manifesto.
What’s in a name?
In the UK Parliament, the bill has always been known as the Climate & Ecology Bill. Publicly, between 2019-2021, Zero Hour was known as the CEE Bill Alliance, and referred to the bill as the Climate & Ecological Emergency Bill.
We are living in an environmental emergency, and this guides the urgency of our work, but for consistency and clarity—since 2022—we have referred to the bill’s formal and parliamentary title, the Climate & Ecology Bill, and campaigned under the banner of Zero Hour.