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Climate Emergency: Government must move further and faster

Like many constituents, I am passionate about the need for urgent action to tackle the climate and ecological emergency. It has long been a priority for me in the work I do locally in Portsmouth and in Parliament. Given the scale of the challenges we face, we know the time to act is now.

While many local authorities across the country – including Portsmouth – have declared a climate emergency, all we’ve seen from this government so far is dither and delay.

The Prime Minister must seize the once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a green recovery from the pandemic, and act to rapidly decarbonise our economy. Real progress on this issue requires more than rhetoric from Ministers. It requires a plan.

That’s why I support the aims of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, which was presented by Caroline Lucas MP as a Private Members’ Bill on 2 September 2020. It was tabled for second reading on 12 March 2021, but sittings for Private Members’ Bills have since been suspended due to the pandemic, and it is important to point out it is merely a Presentation Bill meaning there will be no votes on the matters contained within the Bill. Similarly, unfortunately only a very small number of Private Members’ Bills ever become law, and they are usually those that have Government support.

Labour continues to develop its own parliamentary agenda on the climate emergency, in consultation with our members, the climate movement, trade unions, businesses, and communities across the country, which will include many of the principles laid out in this Bill. I am working closely with colleagues on this.

In the meantime, I want the UK to take tangible steps towards a greener future now. That’s why I voted for amendments to the government’s Environment Bill. New Clause 5 would have set a target to reverse the loss of biodiversity by 2030, while Amendment 25 would have set air quality targets in line with World Health Organisation recommendations.  

Not only did the government vote against these amendments, but I am bitterly disappointed to say they have also now delayed the next stages of the Bill until later this year. This now mean that we will be without a post-Brexit environmental plan until later this year, wasting valuable months in the lead up to COP26 where the UK has the chance to lead global change on this issue.

Confronted by this unfolding emergency, I am clear that 2050 is too late for the UK to end its contribution to climate breakdown and runaway global heating. According to the UN, we have less than ten years left to avoid the worst impacts of catastrophic climate change. The government must act with far greater urgency and ambition.

Whilst Labour will be outlining a vision for a Green Recovery in the coming months, I can assure you that I will continue to push for bold, rapid and meaningful action to tackle the climate and ecological emergency at every opportunity, both locally and nationally.

It is what the people of Portsmouth, and future generations, expect me to do. If you have views or ideas to help make this a reality, as always, please get in touch.

Stephen Morgan MP