Government misses climate emergency deadline

The government has not responded to parliament’s call to draw up “urgent proposals to restore the UK’s natural environment and to deliver a circular, zero waste economy”, within a six month time frame.

In a debate held on 1 May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn proposed a motion to declare ‘an environment and climate emergency’, increase support for renewables and low carbon 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”.

It was unopposed by government, though relatively few Conservative MPs were present.

One of motion’s key pledges, to raise climate targets to net zero by 2050, was fulfilled the following month. But its broader demands have fallen by the wayside, claims Labour, which notes that the government has maintained the de facto ban on onshore wind power and a “hostile environment” for renewables in general and continued to cut Natural England’s budget while using UK Export Finance to back fossil fuel projects abroad.

Shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman MP, shadow environment secretary said:

“By ignoring the climate and environment emergency, Boris Johnson has shown that he cannot be trusted to save our planet. This election is our last chance to stop the climate and environment emergency. The next Labour government will usher in a Green Industrial Revolution to tackle climate change. Labour has a radical, credible plan for tackling the climate crisis and creating a million good, unionised green jobs across the country.”

However, there is little scope to enforce compliance with the motion. Asked what levers are available to the Commons to ensure that its demands are met, outgoing speaker John Bercow replied that it was, “The process of government, and the process of scrutiny of government by parliament, otherwise known as continuing debate.”

Just such debate followed in mid-October, on the environmental aspects of the Queen’s speech and the government’s actions in general since the motion was passed. Asked by Hayman if the government would put a “fully costed cross-departmental plan” to meet the motion before the Commons, environment secretary Theresa Villiers did not reply.

DEFRA has been asked to comment. 

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