We’re inviting TTL supporters to write to our MP urging her to support the new Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill. To help, here’s our response to her standard letter as to why she doesn’t back the bill.
The cross-party Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill was tabled by Green MP Caroline Lucas on 2 September, calling on the government to take immediate and radical action on the climate emergency. You can see details of the CEE Bill here.
The bill, which has been written by scientists, lawyers and activists, has received support from 64 MPs at the time of writing – but from no Conservative MPs so far. It will need support from a majority of MPs to give it a chance to become law.
We’re encouraging everyone to write to Maria Caulfield, Conservative MP for Lewes, asking her to support the bill, which she currently refuses to do. To help you pre-empt her standard responses, here’s how she’s so far answered TTL supporters who have written to her – and what we say in return.
From Maria Caulfield MP
Thank you for contacting me about the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill.
I understand that this Bill has been developed by campaign members of Extinction Rebellion, Big Ask and Power for the People.
TTL says: It is an alliance bill written by leading scientists and lawyers and is supported by a broad range of campaign groups, businesses, charities and individuals. It has already gained the support of more than 60 MPs from the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the Democratic Unionist Party and the Scottish National Party.
Tackling climate change is a priority for me and my Ministerial colleagues. I am proud that the UK was the first G7 country to legislate to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. While I can understand that you want this target to be achieved sooner, and I share this desire, getting to net zero by 2050 is feasible and consistent with avoiding most damaging climate change. Aiming for zero emissions by 2030 is almost certainly impossible, hugely disruptive and risks undermining consensus. Climate change is an emotive issue, but a cross-community consensus will be required to ensure the UK achieves a transition that works for all.
TTL says: Net zero by 2050, even if it were achievable with the current government’s policies, would be much too late. The Committee on Climate Change (the government’s own advisors) stated that the government’s 2050 net zero target, if replicated across the world, only gives a somewhat ‘greater than 50% chance’ of not entering into runaway climate change. This is like flipping a coin. Just this year in the UK we have had the wettest February, the driest May and the longest stretch of temperatures exceeding 34ºC since records began. Carbon emissions in the UK continue to rise year on year and government action is wholly inadequate.
Net zero by 2030 is certainly possible and would cause far less disruption and economic risk than the measures imposed in response to this year’s Covid pandemic. Climate change is not ‘an emotive issue’, it is a scientific fact. Heedlessness and complacency on the part of government will result in more than just emotion in the decades to come; it will result in economic disaster and suffering on a massive and inescapable scale. We are seeing these effects right now.
Even if humans were to suddenly stop emitting C02, global warming and its impacts would continue to increase over the next 100 years. These impacts — heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods, hurricanes — affect third world countries far more than northern countries, and will create an unimaginable refugee problem for Europe and north America. This government seems incapable of squarely facing the problems of global warming. Instead of strong leadership and strong action it delivers only platitudes and failure of imagination.
I note that the Bill seeks to examine the UK’s global carbon footprint, such as indirect UK emissions in our supply chain which may affect developing countries. I am encouraged that the UK remains committed to environmentally sustainable development as set out in the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. In September 2019 the Prime Minister committed to doubling the UK’s International Climate Finance over the next five years which I hope will enable the UK to play an active part in protecting the environment and reversing biodiversity loss.
TTL says: The Millennium Development Goals were nothing to do with the UK’s global carbon footprint. They were about eradicating global poverty. International Climate Finance is a UK government commitment to support developing countries to respond to the challenges and opportunities of climate change. Again, it has no bearing on the C02 emissions embedded in the UK’s supply chain. We would benefit developing countries far more by allowing them to use their own resources than by importing them, thereby exploiting their land and labour, exhausting their ground water and undermining their domestic economies as well as contributing to global warming from air and sea transport.
On forming a citizens’ assembly, I do not believe that it would have advantages over conventional policy making in this context. Previous experiences in Canada, for instance, included citizens in the decision‑making process, but they failed to produce impactful or long-lasting results.
TTL says: That is because their conclusions were not binding. Nor are the recent recommendations of the Climate Assembly UK. (This assembly was also, arguably, inadequately briefed and should have been told the bigger picture. For example, its remit excluded almost half of UK carbon and GHG emissions by not covering the manufacture and transport of goods and services from other countries.) The conclusions of citizens’ assemblies are more representative of the general opinion of the electorate than parliamentary voting because they are independent of the political tactics and lobbying which encumber the parliamentary process. When their conclusions are binding, as in the Irish abortion vote and the Gdansk flood management vote, laws are passed that represent the wishes of the people rather than the ambitions of MPs.
While I welcome the increased awareness and debate this Bill brings, I do not believe that it is required as work is already underway.
TTL says: The work that is under way, as you put it, is hopelessly under-funded and would not enable the UK to achieve zero carbon by 2050, even if that were an adequate target. To give one example, Rishi Sunak has promised a £3bn green investment package, but HS2 is going ahead at a cost of £100bn, with environmental destruction, massive embedded CO2 and increased emissions over existing transport links. Government thinking on climate and the environment is very far from joined up.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Maria Caulfield MP
Member of Parliament for Lewes
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA