Faced undisputedly with a climate and ecological emergency why isn’t there much wider support for the eponymous private members’ bill proposed by Caroline Lucas of the Green Party? That’s the question that Sustainable Hackney posed in December to Meg Hillier, Labour MP for Hackney south and Shoreditch. If the Climate an Ecological Emergency bill (CEE bill) has the support of Diane Abbott in Hackney North, why isn’t Meg Hillier supporting it too?
Ms. Hillier has declined to support the bill in preference of the Labour Party’s new and less ambitious Green Recovery Programme (1). Although she agrees the government must lift its ambition, she and others in the Labour Party seem to have lowered theirs. The Green Recovery Programme seems to signal a sharp retreat from Labour’s earlier 2019 Green Industrial Revolution. Although in his leadership bid the new Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, pledged continued support for the Green Industrial Revolution, he sacked its main architect and replaced it with a much diluted plan. Now, ironically the Tories have themselves nicked the Green Industrial Revolution label for their lacklustre package which on inspection shows that only £4bn of the announced £12bn is actually new. Now, with the Glasgow COP set for the end of 2021; the Conservatives’ credentials for climate leadership are looking ragged, diminished by aid programmes that still back overseas fossil fuel projects and the new Cumbrian coal mine.
The CEE bill is timely; coming when even a significant 7 per cent drop in global carbon emissions last year due to the pandemic, cannot be heralded as a silver lining as research shows it will make no difference at all to long-term climate change (2) despite this blip showing emissions are reversible; last year was the hottest on record. (3) Global average temperatures now stand at 1.25°C, perilously close to the 1.5°C that the 2015 Paris climate summit aimed to avert. Achieving this goal is now unlikely and will be less so without the radical solutions contained in the CEE bill. (4)
Seen against the two other political alternatives, the CEE bill’s proposals have a bolder, less insular and more global reach. It requires the UK to produce and enact a serious plan to reduce its share of emissions so the critical 1.5°C global average temperature is not exceeded, but goes further than the others by stipulating that a plan should account not only for the domestic carbon footprint but include the emissions the UK outsources overseas and recognises that nature must be protected and regenerated not only here but along our foreign supply chains in recognition of the damage done by imported goods. It also rejects risky carbon emissions technologies in favour of nature based solutions unless they can be proven efficacious and insists that ordinary people are given a democratic voice with regard to the bill’s policy by instituting a citizens’ assembly.
Meg Hillier has spelt out her reasons for not backing the CEE bill thus, ‘this type of bill has a very low success rate as these bills rarely get sufficient time to be debated and voted on in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The purpose of these types of bills is often to draw attention to an issue rather than something to be debated or voted on.’ We feel the MP has provided us with the reasons why the CEE Bill should be supported and not it should not and we hope that Meg Hillier will reconsider her position.
The success rate of private members’ bills that she describes as ‘low’ would surely be enhanced with wider support that included hers. Also, if as she says; one purpose besides enactment is attracting attention to this issue; would not greater support give this issue more exposure? We do not understand why it is not possible for Meg Hillier to support both her own party’s Green Recovery programme as well as the CEE bill especially as Labour's own policy has no chance of being implemented until 2024 if Labour is then elected and forms a government. It therefore makes sense, we think, to support all forms of policy that demand a positive change. We fail to see why when other Labour MPs find it conscionable to support the CEE bill Ms. Hillier does not. We have pointed out that we understand that party members have a loyalty to their own party’s policies but this does not have to be exclusive. The issue is far too important and urgent to not advance. The CEE bill represents an important incremental step in the effort to move the climate and ecological crisis up the agenda. While the CEE bill is an Early Day Motion pushing this policy through Parliament is still feasible. We have pointed out that the 2008 Climate Change Act, only succeeded because the Conservatives, who were in opposition at the time, added their weight to the original private members’ bill
We believe that humanity’s future hangs in the balance and current political policies are completely failing to tip this balance in our favour. Some Labour MPs are putting their names to this bill and we believe that Meg Hillier should too. Please write to Meg Hillier if you agree.
Email: email@example.com, Meg Hillier MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
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