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Oxford academic supports ‘landmark’ climate bill presented to Parliament

A bill has been presented to Parliament to provide what its supporters call “a clear framework, based on scientific reality, to deliver the UK’s commitments to the 2015 UN Paris Climate Agreement and to tighten up current UK legislation.”

The objectives of the Private Members’ Bill, which has the backing of MPs from 7 opposition parties, are to “ensure that the UK plays its fair and proper role in limiting global temperatures to 1.5 degrees,” as well as “protecting and restoring the UK’s ecosystems, with a focus on biodiversity, soils and natural carbon sinks.”

The Bill calls for an emergency Citizen’s Assembly to assist the government in deciding measures to include in a new Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy.

The organisers behind the Bill have launched a campaign aimed at lobbying MPs for support, as, without the backing of dozens of Conservative Members of Parliament, the Bill will not be passed into law.

The presentation of the Bill was planned to coincide with ten days of action by Extinction Rebellion, with protests focusing on Cardiff, Manchester and London. On September 1st alone, there were 250 arrests made in London, according to XR, with rebels occupying Parliament Square to demand that MPs back the CEE Bill.

The Bill has gained support from academics, public figures and campaigners, including the author Margaret Atwood, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, and economist, author and academic Kate Raworth.

Raworth, who is Senior Research Associate at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, told The Oxford Blue that she was supporting the CEE Bill “because the UK’s current goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is utterly inadequate.”

“The UK was the first country into the Industrial Revolution – now we should be one of the first countries out, given our disproportionate historical responsibility for CO2 emissions.”

Citing the date currently set as the UK’s target for reaching net zero carbon emissions, Raworth added; “The 2050 date is a date set for the whole world: the idea that the world’s richest and most carbon-polluting nations should think it’s an adequate date for their own action is absurd.”

The formal draft of the Bill presented by Lucas requires the Prime Minister to “ensure that the United Kingdom achieves specified objectives in tackling the climate and ecological emergency,” with these going far beyond what has been proposed by the government. In addition, it demands that the Environment Secretary implements a Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy within six months of the Bill’s passing, informed by a Citizen’s Assembly.

The Bill mandates the government to take into account the UK’s “entire carbon footprint domestically and internationally, necessitating real action on emissions reductions.” The government has been criticised in the past for not including international aviation and shipping, or consumption emissions in its official figures, and thus one element of the Bill is to include these within the UK’s net zero targets.

The Committee on Climate Change, which advises the government on its climate policies, reported earlier this year that, “policy implementation has not yet met the required ambition,” leading the Bill’s authors to argue that, “we are not even on track for the current 2050 net zero target.”

The second element of the Bill focuses on actively conserving the natural world and cites the 2019 State of Nature Report, which highlighted the rate of decline in biodiversity in the UK, including a 97% loss of wildflower meadows in the last century.

One of the bill’s prominent supporters is former Greenpeace Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo. Naidoo wrote; “The urgency and scale of the response required to tackle the emergency facing life on Earth is in this Bill. Those who are vulnerable are already suffering, the Bill provides a route for these communities to define the actions needed to protect them and all that they cherish.”

The Bill will be given its second reading in March next year.

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, has been contacted for comment.

Max Spokes

Max (he/him) is Environment News Editor at The Oxford Blue for the summer vacation and Michelmas 2020. He is entering his second year studying History and Politics at Balliol.