This summer, the UK has witnessed the highest temperatures on record – nine regions of drought zones and the driest July since 1935. Alongside this, there is the looming danger of the cost of living crisis with energy prices rising fourfold and experts predicting that two-thirds of the UK population will be under threat of fuel poverty by January 2023.
Our overreliance on fossil fuels and the need for a transition to renewable energy has never been so clear. And yet, this summer of extreme temperatures also saw the UK’s Net Zero Strategy deemed illegally lacking in ambition in the courts. We’re now on course to miss our sixth carbon budget by a massive margin.
It’s not just emissions that are cause for alarm – this year’s heat has exposed additional problems. Wildfires, failing rivers and polluted waterways have served to highlight the UK's fragile state of nature – and it seems that so far the Environment Act has had limited impact.
It’s becoming obvious that we desperately need a comprehensive government strategy to bring ambitions in line with limiting warming to 1.5°C as well as restoring our country’s environment. It’s for this reason that over 150 MP and Peers from all major parties are backing the Climate and Ecology Bill.
First introduced to the House of Commons in 2020 by Green MP Caroline Lucas, the Bill sets out a long-term plan to tackle the root causes of the climate and nature crises and ensure we protect a liveable future. In July this year, it was introduced into the House of Lords by Lib Dem peer Lord Redesdale and, following its second reading in the House, is scheduled for committee stage in October.
Remarkably, the Bill is the only proposed legislation before the UK Parliament that ensures a comprehensive approach to the joint climate and nature emergency, aligning the UK’s carbon budget with a global effort to stay under 1.5°C. As well as tackling emissions, the Bill puts forward ambitious plans to actively restore biodiversity, connecting the Government’s response to the closely linked climate and nature crises, while also bringing in major public engagement to ensure a fair transition.
The urgency with which we need the Bill is highlighted by glaring gaps in our decarbonisation strategy. Key changes include finally closing emissions loopholes and taking full responsibility for its greenhouse gas emissions, including those from international aviation, shipping, and imported goods, which are currently not included in the UK’s climate policies.
It also calls for the end of the exploration, extraction, exportation and importation of fossil fuels by the UK as rapidly as possible – something we know we need to do, but that seems at odds with pledges made by the current government, which like the governments before it, will keep delaying action unless ambition is ramped up.
Ecologically, we are living in ‘nature poverty’. We rank in the bottom 10 per cent of countries in the world for intact nature, and dead last of rich nations in the G7. Scandals around sewage dumping, overdevelopment, and other destructive activities highlight that the situation is only getting worse. Current legislation aims to halt the destruction – but only by the end of the decade, with no ambition to restore our tattered ecosystems.
In a year where farmers have run out of water for crops, and where the North East witnessed mass deaths of sea life, the idea that we can afford to keep nature in an even poorer state is unfathomable. That’s why the Climate and Ecology Bill demands that we actively restore habitats, flipping the 2030 target from the year we stop destroying nature, to the year that we see it visibly recover and bounce back.
The stakes are simply too high to leave these two inextricably linked crises to chance. We, like the thousands of expert scientists, councils, councillors, businesses, and NGOs have no confidence that current legislation will lead us out of the climate and ecological emergency. We must enact the Climate and Ecology Bill. Please join us in our campaign.
Join the campaign for the Climate and Ecology Bill by writing to your MP at zerohour.uk.