On Tuesday 9 February, the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill finally got a short airing in the House of Commons. This was a first good step in the huge strides needed to get the climate-nature crisis at the front of the agenda.
CEE Bill sponsor Caroline Lucas MP secured a 30-minute adjournment debate on the UK’s response to the climate and ecological emergency. Adjournment debates are a slot at the end of the Parliamentary day during which MPs can debate a specific topic. After a short opening speech, a Government Minister then responds. There is no outcome to the debate or vote on any specific legislation—adjournment debates are mainly used to bring attention to an issue.
However, in the short time available Caroline Lucas MP delivered a showstopping opening speech. Her message was for MPs to be honest about the realities of climate change and ecological destruction, noting that “every warning light on the dashboard is flashing red” and the UK’s climate policy is “inconsistent and incoherent”. She added that we are not set to meet our future targets and the targets themselves do not properly account for our emissions on a consumption basis. In the year that the UK co-hosts COP26, our responsibility to show “honest and bold global leadership” on climate and nature could not be greater.
Caroline went on to stress that the CEE Bill offers the best solution to reverse this trend. The Bill revamps the 2008 Climate Change Act by properly accounting for total UK emissions, combining climate and nature emergencies under one framework and providing citizens with a voice in the move towards a “fairer and greener society”. The CEE Bill is the new legislation under which we can “cooperate to ensure we all thrive within the limits of our planet”.
There were also excellent contributions from other CEE Bill-supporting MPs including Labour’s Nadia Whittome MP, SNP Patrick Grady MP, Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville-Roberts MP and Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney MP. The breadth of speakers presenting a cross-party perspective on this vital issue demonstrated the desire from MPs across the House for Parliament to give proper time to the CEE Bill.
At one point the Speaker interjected by stating that adjournment debates are not supposed to focus on pieces of legislation and are a time for discussion on the topic only. This was a fair point, but speaks more to the Parliamentary system only allowing 30 minutes for MPs to debate the climate and ecological emergency and the solutions proposed by the CEE Bill than anything else.
To put things into perspective, with this adjournment debate, MPs have been given the same amount of time to debate the most important issue of our time as it takes to cook a ready meal chicken korma in the oven.*
The reply from the government Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, was brief and largely predictable. Her emphasis was the Government’s 10 Point Plan, which, while welcome as a means of creating green jobs and moving us towards a zero-carbon society, does not properly address the deteriorating situation.
The Minister did promise “bold proposals” from the government in the run-up to COP26, and we look forward to seeing these as they manifest. In the meantime, we will continue to emphasise that the CEE Bill provides the sufficiently bold legislation that can forge a path away from disaster. The reality is that the UK Government must go much further and much faster to not just meet our international and domestic climate obligations, but also prove to the world we are serious about tackling climate change and ecological destruction.
This adjournment debate was particularly welcome since the CEE Bill’s progress has been put on pause with the news that Friday sittings have been cancelled. We thank all the MPs who contributed for finding a way to get the Bill heard, especially CEE Bill champion Caroline Lucas for her excellent opening speech.
We shouldn’t have to be picking up scraps of time for the most urgent issue facing our futures. If your MP supports the CEE Bill, ask them if they are able to apply for another adjournment debate to get the word out. Help us put the climate and ecological emergencies at the top of Parliament’s agenda.
*190°C/Fan 170°C/Gas 5 30 mins.
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