The British government has declare a climate emergency, the first government in the world to do so. The symbolic move comes after two weeks of activism by Extinction Rebellion to raise awareness of the dangers of climate change.
Theresa May didn’t whip her MPs against the Labour motion and it passed without a vote. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said that he hoped the move would “set off a wave of action from parliaments and governments around the globe”.
“We pledge to work as closely as possible with countries that are serious about ending the climate catastrophe and make clear to US President Donald Trump that he cannot ignore international agreements and action on the climate crisis.”Jeremy Corbyn
Theresa May accepted the position of Labour during comments in the House, agreeing with Jeremy Corbyn’s statement on the fight against climate change being the “most important issue of our times” when she agreed that the matter was one of the biggest problems facing the world. Despite her agreement, however, the Prime Minister was sure to frame her comments in terms of it not being a new problem.
Speaking in the House, Michael Gove and the Tories managed to quite amazingly blame socialism and Venezuela for the crisis.
Asked by Sir Edward Julian Egerton Leigh MP whether he agreed that the “socialist command-and-control economies of Eastern Europe” have the worst record on the environment, Gove agreed and cited Venezuela as a further example.
The vote, which was forced by Labour, was in support of recent calls by activist group Extinction Rebellion for the government to recognise the scale and urgency of the issues surrounding climate change.
The Labour motion stated the need for the government to increaase its level of commitment to combatting climate change, agreeing to the need for global emissions to fall by around 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 alongside official recognition by the government that climate change will have a devastating effect on UK infrastructures such as food production and the availability of water.
That this house declares an environment and climate emergency following the finding of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change that to avoid a more than 1.5°C rise in global warming, global emissions would need to fall by around 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero by around 2050; 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; notes that the UK is currently missing almost all of its biodiversity targets, with an alarming trend in species decline, and that cuts of 50% to the funding of Natural England are counterproductive to tackling those problems; calls on the government to increase the ambition of the UK’s climate change targets under the Climate Change Act 2008 to achieve net zero emissions before 2050, to increase support for and set ambitious, short-term targets for the roll-out of renewable and low carbon energy and transport, and to move swiftly to capture economic opportunities and green jobs in the low carbon economy while managing risks for workers and communities currently reliant on carbon intensive sectors; and further calls on the government to lay before the house within the next six months urgent proposals to restore the UK’s natural environment and to deliver a circular, zero waste economy.
Jeremy Corbyn was supported in his call by the Green Party, with other members of the parliament backing the moves after meeting with Extinction Rebellion and climate activist Greta Thunburg.
However, Environment Secretary Michael Gove was said to be less than impressive as his words in the House today probably betray. Extinction Rebellion activists have said that Gove was guilty of “moral and political failure” as he refused to back the call for a climate emergency during a meeting yesterday.
While the Conservative Party has consistently blocked and rejected moves to recognise the urgency of climate issues, often descending into outright denialism, Labour under Jeremy Corbyn has seized the impetus and pledged to work with activists to combat the growing threat to society. Speaking prior to tonight’s vote, Corbyn said that climate change was the greatest issue facing us today.
“We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control unless we take rapid and dramatic action now. Young people know this. I was deeply moved a few weeks ago to see the streets outside this parliament filled with colour and noise by children on strike from school chanting ‘our planet, our future’. For someone of my generation, it was inspiring but also humbling that children felt they had to leave school to teach the adults a lesson. The truth is they are ahead of the politicians on this, the most important issue of our times.”Jeremy Corbyn