Many constituents have contacted me about the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill.

We need urgent action on this issue. The flash floods, landslides, and wildfires we have witnessed in recent years tell us that climate breakdown is not a distant threat but something that is happening here and now. Yet while Parliament declared an environment and climate emergency in May last year, our Government is simply not responding as the situation demands.

The Government claims that it is taking steps to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but as the Committee on Climate Change’s most recent progress report makes clear, the gulf between the Government’s rhetoric on climate action and the reality is vast. Not only are Ministers set to miss the 2050 target that Parliament legislated for just over a year ago, they are not even on track to meet the less ambitious one that preceded it.

2050 is too late for the UK to end its contribution to climate breakdown. According to the UN, we have less than ten years left to avoid the worst impacts of catastrophic climate change and that’s why the Government must act with far greater urgency and ambition. I believe we should aim to achieve the substantial majority of our emissions reductions by 2030 and that we need to do so through a world-leading Green New Deal.

I support many of the aims set out in the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill which, as you may know, is a Presentation Bill (one that does not involve a debate or a vote in parliament, but is a way of drawing attention to an issue that requires a change in the law) although there are a couple of things in it that need further clarification. While I agree that we cannot use the hope that technology will come along as an excuse to carry on polluting, I do believe that we will need all the means at our disposal to achieve our zero emissions target. And on counting our emissions, I understand the argument about including emissions generated overseas but we will need an internationally-agreed method of making these calculations and of accepting that emissions resulting from goods produced abroad for domestic consumption should count against each nation’s total. And as for the practical consequences, would we for example have to stop importing some products to reach our zero emissions target?

I will also be supporting the Opposition’s proposals on the climate emergency, which will be developed in consultation with stakeholders including, the climate movement, trade unions, businesses, and communities across the country. It will include many of the principles laid out in this Bill.

What we need now above all is a practical plan to invest in the green industries of the future, put people back to work in good, green jobs across the country, and support workers and communities as we make the transition to a low-carbon and socially-just economy. This should focus on eliminating emissions from heating our homes and offices, and changing to zero emissions transport. With a plan like that, we can raise our domestic climate ambition with a significantly enhanced 2030 emissions reduction target and demonstrate real leadership as the host of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow next year.

On the natural world, we must stop its degradation and increase our efforts to restore habitats and ecosystems. When I was the Environment Secretary, I introduced the Marine and Coastal Access Act which led to the creation of the first marine conservation zones around the UK. This is one example of what can be done with shared effort and commitment.

I can assure you that I will continue to push for bold action to tackle the climate and ecological emergency at every opportunity.

Hilary Benn
MP for Leeds Central

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