threegenerationsleft

human activity and the destruction of the planet


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Commons motion passed to declare an environment and climate emergency

Last night Parliament voted for the UK to declare a Climate Emergency.  Whilst this is momentous – and historic – it will have no impact whatsoever unless the government accepts and acts on it.  The debate was started by Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who called for the motion to “set off a wave of action from parliaments and governments around the globe”.

The symbolic move – recognising the urgency needed to combat the climate crisis – follows a wave of protests launched by the Extinction Rebellion strikers in recent weeks.

Opening the debate, Corbyn urged his fellow MPs to accept their “historic duty” and back Labour’s motion. He used his speech to make a passionate and comprehensive case for “rapid and dramatic action” for social and environmental justice. On current rates of decarbonisation, and following government cuts to renewable energy, the UK will only reach net zero by the end of the century, which is at least 50 years too late.

The Labour leader argued that we are already seeing the effects of climate change, including extreme weather in the UK. He told MPs they should listen to those “who bear the highest cost” and are “least to blame here and around the world for the destruction of our climate”.

Corbyn told the Commons that he was “deeply moved to see the streets outside this parliament filled with colour and noise by children on strike from school chanting ‘our planet, our future’and that “Parliament rarely leads change, it usually drags its feet” but will urge MPs to “not repeat that pattern” and “respond to the younger generation” by saying “we hear you”.

Labour used an opposition motion to push Parliament to act with urgency to avoid more than 1.5°C of warming, which requires global emissions to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ before 2050.

Last year, UK carbon dioxide emissions fell by only 2% – a rate that means that the UK would not reach levels compatible with net zero before 2100, far too late to avoid dangerous climate change.

Rebecca Long Bailey, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, decried this slow rate of change saying “winning slowly on climate change is the same as losing”.

Jeremy Corbyn has also spoken in a video on this theme:

 

The Commons debate showed cross-party support of the motion, though many of the Conservative back-bench seats were empty during the debate.  In his reply to Jeremy Corbyn’s speech, the Environment minister, Michael Gove, defended his Government’s record on introducing methods to reduce carbon emissions. Some say that his long and passionate speech was delivered, partly as an attack on Corbyn but also in a bid for the leadership of the Conservative party.



Also important in this whole context is the report that was released today by the Committee on Climate Change.  This is outlined on the BBC website:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-48122911

It stated that the UK should lead the global fight against climate change by cutting greenhouse gases to nearly zero by 2050.  The BBC then goes on to say that a target of 2050 was likely to damage the UK economy.  Yet , Extinction Rebellion and others are calling for a much closer time (2025) to achieve carbon zero.  Indeed, the IPPC report has shown that keeping global warming below 1.5ºC is essential, if the worst effects of climate change are to be avoided.

It would appear then that the Committee on Climate Change has been very conservative in its recommendations.



 


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A New Deal for Nature

During his speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos recently, Sir David Attenborough drew attention to the environmental challenges we face and called for a New Deal for Nature. In an interview with Prince William, he said:

“We have to recognise that every breath of air we take, every mouthful of food we take comes from the natural world. And that if we damage the natural world, we damage ourselves…We have the power. We have the knowledge to actually live in harmony with nature.”

Davos

Sir David Attenborough discussing his New Deal for Nature at the WEF in Davos

A new global deal for nature and people would put the environment at the heart of our economic, political, social and financial systems and would integrate efforts to tackle climate change, biodiversity declines, threats to the environment of the high seas and development.

The deal would focus on solutions that address the underlying drivers of  environmental problems and requires action from everyone, from individuals to governments and businesses to tackle their global footprint on the natural world.

https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/sir-david-attenborough-calls-new-deal-nature

In response to this Unearthed have produced a series of  four youtube videos in a series called Life Support, which point out that changes in biodiversity is just as important as climate change:

 

 



 


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New environment law to deliver a Green Brexit

Environmental Principles and Governance Bill announced as consultation launches on new body to hold government to account.

A picture of rolling green hills

A new Environmental Principles and Governance Bill will ensure environmental protections will not be weakened as we leave the EU, the government has confirmed.

consultation has started today on the contents of the Environmental Principles and Governance Bill, which will establish a world-leading body to hold government to account for environmental outcomes.

The body will support our commitment to be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than that in which we inherited it. It will provide scrutiny and advice as we protect and enhance our precious landscapes, wildlife and natural assets and would be able to hold government to account on environmental legislation.

Subject to consultation, the new body could specifically be responsible for:

  • providing independent scrutiny and advice on existing and future government environmental law and policy;
  • responding to complaints about government’s delivery of environmental law; and
  • holding government to account publicly over its delivery of environmental law and exercising enforcement powers where necessary.

The Government is also consulting on its intention to require ministers to produce – and then have regard to –a statutory and comprehensive policy statement setting out how they will apply core environmental principles as they develop policy and discharge their responsibilities. Currently environmental decisions made in the UK – from improving air and water quality to protecting endangered species – are overseen by the European Commission and underpinned by a number of these principles, such as the precautionary principle, sustainable development and the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

While these principles are already central to government environmental policy, they are not set out in one place besides the EU treaties. The new Environmental Principles and Governance Bill will ensure governments continue to have regard to important environmental principles through the policy statement, which would be scrutinised by Parliament. The consultation seeks views on whether or not the principles to be contained in the policy statement should be listed in primary legislation.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:

As the Prime Minister has made clear, we will not weaken environmental protections when we leave the EU. A new Environmental Principles and Governance Bill will ensure core environmental principles remain central to government policy and decision-making. This will help us to deliver a Green Brexit and the vision set out in our 25 Year Environment Plan.

But we will only achieve our aims by also creating a strong and objective voice that champions and enforces environmental standards. That’s why our Environmental Principles and Governance Bill will also create an independent and statutory watchdog. This will hold governments to account for delivering their commitments to the natural world.

The consultation, which will run for 12 weeks, seeks views on the most effective way for the new body to hold government to account, which would include, as a minimum, the power to issue advisory notices. The consultation asks what further enforcement mechanisms may be necessary.

The Environmental Principles and Governance Bill will be published in draft in the autumn. Public consultation on the environmental principles policy statement will follow in due course. The Bill will be introduced early in the second session of this Parliament, ensuring these measures are introduced in time for the end of the implementation period in December 2020. EU environmental governance structures will continue to apply during the implementation period.

The consultation is concerned with environmental governance in England and reserved matters throughout the UK, for which the UK government has responsibility. However, we are exploring with the devolved administrations whether they wish to take a similar approach. We would welcome the opportunity to co-design proposals with them to ensure they work across the whole UK, taking account of the different government and legal systems in the individual nations.

Background

  1. You can respond to our consultation on the Citizen Space website
  2. Read ‘A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment’


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Brexit could kill the precautionary principle – here’s why it matters so much for our environment by Rupert Read

This article appeared on 22nd November 2017 in The Conversation:

https://theconversation.com/brexit-could-kill-the-precautionary-principle-heres-why-it-matters-so-much-for-our-environment-86577

Rupert Read is Reader in Philosophy at the University of East Anglia and is affiliated with the Green Party.  In his article, he defines the ‘precautionary principle’ as follows:

The precautionary principle is present in UK law mainly by way of its presence in EU law. It says that if the potential downside of some action or technology is huge, then the normal burden of proof should be reversed. In other words, rather than scientists having to prove that something is dangerous before it’s regulated or prohibited, those wishing to do the potentially dangerous thing should have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that it is safe before they are allowed to do it. Better safe than sorry.”

And he also adds a short piece of youtube video which further explains it:

It is important that this is understood fully so that, any lobbying of politicians to ensure that the precautionary principle is enshrined in British law after Brexit.  Read argues that this is of particular significance in terms of environmental issues:

“The world is witnessing an increase in the number and severity of hurricanes, droughts, floods and famines. A significant part of this is attributable to the temperature rises and disruption to the weather systems that human industrial activity has triggered.

Yet at this very moment, when the world needs new protections to mitigate dangerous climate change more than ever, Britain faces a struggle to maintain its current levels of environmental protection. Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has set in place a process that, if it continues, jeopardises the future of many of the country’s most important environmental protections.”

And with the EU Withdrawal Bill currently making its way through parliament, it is important that the precautionary principle is contained in it, as it is a piece of EU legislation, not British.  At present, it is not in the EU Withdrawal Bill.  Read’s concerns about this are as follows:

Perhaps most worrying is the possibility that one of the lynchpins of European Union environmental law may be downgraded or abandoned by Britain without real public scrutiny in order to make the country more “competitive” for markets and attractive to overseas trade deals. This is especially the case with potential deals with the US, which does not accept the precautionary principle as being a basis for law.”

and:

“At its heart, precaution represents a challenge to purely “evidence-based” risk-management practices. Instead, the precautionary principle points out that when full evidence is lacking we should err on the side of caution and regulate potential threats, if those could cause serious or irreversible damage. This is more important than ever as we create new synthetic products, including even synthetic life, and as we meddle, at our existential risk, with our climate.

The precautionary principle tends to be out of favour with those who are focused on promoting growth, trade and investment at all costs. Consequently, it was of no surprise that Greenpeace’s 2015 leaks of the UK-US trade negotiations over the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership trade deal revealed that the US – even under Obama’s presidency – was keen to push for its abandonment as part of that deal.”

He concludes with the words:

If the precautionary principle is to survive the current political and legal process in Britain, it needs wider understanding and wider support. The government needs to understand that ordinary citizens understand what is at stake here, and care. It’s now up to UK citizens to ensure that this matter reverberates up to local MPs, to the top tiers of all parties’ leadership teams, and beyond. This will not be an easy task, but, either for ill or for good, the consequences are potentially huge for ourselves, our environment, and our descendants.”

Important then, that we lobby MPs to ensure that they act to ensure that the precautionary principle becomes enshrined in UK law.