UK first country to declare climate emergency

| 2nd May 2019
The Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Commons 

Flickr (Creative Commons)
A Labour motion calling for the UK Parliament to be the first in the world to declare an environment and climate emergency was unanimously passed.

Historic and very hopeful news. Now other nations must follow. And words must turn into immediate action

Climate campaigners have hailed the UK Parliament’s declaration of a climate emergency – a key demand of recent protests by Extinction Rebellion – as historic.

The motion was put forward by Labour MPs, and also states that Parliament “recognises the devastating impact that volatile and extreme weather will have on UK food production, water availability, public health and through flooding and wildfire damage”.

It also notes the UK is missing targets to protect fauna and flora, and that cuts to the funding of conservation body Natural England are a barrier to solving the problem.

Ambition

Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg tweeted: “Historic and very hopeful news. Now other nations must follow. And words must turn into immediate action.”

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas added: “I’m pleased Parliament has declared a climate emergency But words are cheap - we need urgent action. So to be clear You can’t declare climate emergency AND continue business as usual - fracking, building new runways, industrialised farming etc.”

The motion also called for the government to raise the ambition of the UK’s climate change targets to achieve net zero emissions before 2050, it added.

Binding

This follows advice by the government’s official advisors, the Committee on Climate Change, which published its advice on how to achieve this target today.

The committee concluded that the targets are achievable with known technologies, alongside improvements in people’s lives, and should be put into law as soon as possible.

Falls in cost for some of the key zero-carbon technologies mean that achieving net-zero is now possible within the economic cost that Parliament originally accepted when it passed the Climate Change Act in 2008, it added.

The Scottish Government has already put forward amendments to its Climate Change Bill to set a legally binding target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 at the latest, with Scotland becoming carbon neutral by 2040, in line with the committee’s advice.  

This Author

Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.

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