The New UK Climate Bill: Everything You Need to Know
All the details on the bill backed by the Extinction Rebellion protests.
After the summer recess, UK MPs have started to head back to parliament to discuss new legislation — and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is, of course, high up on their agendas.
But while they were out, a group of climate activists — including members of the environmental direct action group Extinction Rebellion, along with lawyers and scientists — came together to put forward a new proposal for MPs to enable action on climate change too.
They have drawn up a piece of legislation called the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (known as the CEE Bill), spearheaded by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.
The prominent environmentalist tabled the bill as an Early Day Motion on Wednesday Sept. 2, meaning it has been put forward for debate in parliament and has started to attract signatures from other MPs, signalling they support it.
It received its “first reading” — being introduced to the House of Commons — the same day.
Here’s more on what that process involves and what the group is trying to achieve.
What is the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill?
A group of activists, scientists, and lawyers launched a campaign for the CEE Bill on Aug. 12. They are trying to get it passed through parliament and have been garnering public interest and support for their proposals through a media campaign too — including as a key demand in the fresh Extinction Rebellion protests.
A “bill” like this is a proposal for a new law or a change to a current law. But before it gets to that point, it must be presented for debate by politicians.
But to secure a debate, it needs support from enough MPs. Then it needs to be voted on to pass through the House of Commons, then the House of Lords, before it is given Royal Assent which passes it officially into law.
It’s a long process that can sometimes take a few years, but climate legislation has been brought successfully this way before, for example the 2008 Climate Change Act started this way, and was signed into law after three years.
The campaigners want to build on that success — the original laws that committed the UK to aiming to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 — to create radical new legislation.
What are they calling for specifically?
The group backing the CEE Bill are calling for gaps in the 2008 Climate Change Act to be filled.
Specifically, they want to see key industries that are currently exempt from having to comply with the zero net carbon emissions target, to be included. They argue that this will see Britain “play its fair and proper role” in limiting global temperature increases.
According to the executive summary of the bill, it calls for:
The UK to make and enact a serious plan. This means dealing with our real fair share of emissions so that we don’t go over critical global rises in temperature.
The entire carbon footprint be taken into account (in the UK and overseas) [eg. including the industries currently excluded from the 2050 carbon emissions target and their supply chains].
The protection and conservation of nature here and overseas along supply chains, recognising the damage we cause through the goods we consume.
Those in power not to depend on technology that hasn’t been developed yet to save the day, which activists argue is often used as an excuse for inaction.
A citizens’ assembly to be established that empowers ordinary people to take the lead on climate policy.
Lucas writes in her presentation of the bill: “This House expresses profound alarm at the climate and ecological emergency, with wildfires raging in California, and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica melting in line with worst case scenario predictions for sea level rise."
Who has supported the bill so far?
A cross-party group of MPs has signed on from the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and the Scottish National Party (SNP).
It also has support from 23 academics and legal experts who have signed their support, or contributed their expertise to creating the bill. Extinction Rebellion also supports the bill, along with Volans, a business sustainability firm.
Public figures too have pledged their support, including playwright, actor, and director Mark Rylance, as well as big name campaigners like Kumi Naidoo, ex-secretary general of Amnesty International and former executive director of Greenpeace International.
Naidoo told the Independent after the campaign was launched in August that the plans are “farsighted, aiming to protect those at risk now and in the future."
Extinction Rebellion describe the bill as something that "can change our course — making the government act with the urgency we need."
The group added: "We hope that this bill will set a precedent that can be replicated across the world."