Climate-change protest in Parliament Square tonight from 5pm
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will lead a debate today calling on the UK Parliament to be the first in the world to declare an environment and climate emergency.
Opening the debate, Corbyn will urge his fellow MPs to accept their “historic duty” and back Labour’s motion. He will use 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 will argue that we are already seeing the effects of climate change, including extreme weather in the UK. He will tell 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 will tell 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”.
Climate justice campaigners, including UK Student Climate Network, Momentum and Extinction Rebellion are organising a demonstration in Westminster in support of declaring an emergency.
Corbyn will also call attention to the “terrifying loss of animal and plant species” and the impact we are having on our soil. He will argue that “without pollination and healthy soil, there is no food and without food, there are no humans.”
He will caution against despair and tell MPs “it is time for action”, arguing that the scale of this emergency requires “reprogramming our whole economy” with “large-scale government intervention to kickstart industries, to direct investment and to boost research and development in the green technologies of the future.”
Calling for the declaration of an environment and climate emergency, Corbyn will say:
Today this House must declare an environment and climate emergency. We have no time to waste. We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control unless we take rapid and dramatic action now.
Young people know this. I was deeply moved a few weeks ago to see the streets outside this parliament filled with colour and noise by children on strike from school chanting ‘our planet, our future’.
For someone of my generation, it was inspiring but also humbling that children felt they had to leave school to teach the adults a lesson. The truth is they are ahead of the politicians on this, the most important issue of our times.
We are witnessing an unprecedented upsurge of climate activism with groups like Extinction Rebellion forcing the politicians in this building to listen. For all the dismissive and defensive column inches the protests have provoked, they are a massive and necessary wake up call.
Today, we have the opportunity to say, ‘We hear you’.
Parliament rarely leads change, it usually drags its feet. Think about the huge transformations to our society: workers’ rights, women’s rights, gay rights. The impetus has always come from outside, from social movements and communities, while Westminster is often the last place to understand it. Let’s not repeat that pattern. Let’s respond to the younger generation who are raising the alarm.
By declaring a climate emergency, we could set off a wave of action from parliaments and governments around the world.
It’s a chance that won’t be available to succeeding generations. It is our historic duty to take it.
Raising the damage to our environment, the ecology it supports and Labour’s ‘Green Industrial Revolution”, he will say:
The warming of our climate is contributing to the terrifying loss of animal and plant species that we are only just recognising. Earlier this year, the first global scientific review of its kind found that insects could become extinct within a century unless action is taken. Insects pollinate plants and keep the soil healthy. Without pollination and healthy soil, there is no food and without food, there are no humans.
Meanwhile intensive farming is pumping the earth full of fertilisers and taking its toll on our soil. The Environment Secretary himself has warned that we only have 30 to 40 years left before our fertile soil is “eradicated”.
The facts say that it is an emergency. But an emergency does not have to be a catastrophe. We could use it as an opportunity to rebuild our economy so that it works for the many not the few.
What we need is a Green Industrial Revolution, with huge investment in new technologies and green industries. It is a chance to bring new manufacturing and engineering jobs to places that have never recovered from the destruction of our industries under Margaret Thatcher.
The hidden hand of the market is not going to save us. Technological solutions are not going to magically appear out of nowhere. An emergency of this magnitude requires large-scale government intervention to kickstart industries, to direct investment and to boost research and development in the green technologies of the future.
The solution to the crisis is reprogramming our whole economy so that it works in the interests of both people and the planet. This is not a time for despair. It is a time for action.”
Labour has started a petition demanding Parliament declare the emergency. Sign it here.
The full text of Labour’s Parliamentary motion is as follows:
That this House declares an environment and climate emergency and resolves to act with commensurate urgency following the finding of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that to avoid more than 1.5°C of warming, global emissions would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050; recognises the devastating impact volatile and extreme weather will have on UK food production, water availability, public health, flooding and wildfire damage; calls on the Government to increase the ambition of the UK’s climate change targets under the Climate Change Act to achieve net zero emissions before 2050, to increase support for and set ambitious, short term targets for the rollout of renewable and low carbon energy and transport, and move swiftly to capture economic opportunities and green jobs in the low carbon economy while managing risks for workers and communities currently reliant on carbon intensive sectors; further notes that the UK is currently missing almost all of its biodiversity targets, with an alarming trend in species decline, and that cuts to Natural England of almost 50 percent are counterproductive to this end; and calls on the Government to bring to the House within the next six months a series of urgent measures to restore nature and move towards a circular, zero waste economy.
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