Celebrities have joined scientists and cross-party politicians in calling for the UK government to pass a “crucial” bill to meet international climate targets.
Former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke and broadcaster Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall are among the thousands to back the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) bill through a “Zero Hour” campaign launched this week.
The bill calls for the UK to take into account its full carbon footprint – at home and abroad – when cutting emissions in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C target. It also demands the government stops relying on the hope of future technologies to bring down its emissions.
“The passing of this bill is crucial,” Huq told DeSmog. “We are now living on borrowed time and unless we change the ways in which we act and take into account the repercussions of everything we do on our planet, the results will be irreversible.”
The UK parliament declared a “climate emergency” in 2019 and in the same year pledged to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by mid century. Last year it announced a goal to cut emissions by 68 percent by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.
Despite these targets, campaigners argue the UK needs to cut emissions more holistically, and to incorporate the biodiversity crisis into its response.
‘Yesterday is No Longer Available’
The bill, which was developed with scientists and legal experts, requires the country to put an end to environmental destruction through the production, transportation and disposal of goods consumed. It would also mandate the UK to actively restore biodiverse habitats by protecting forests, soils and ecosystems.
“The time to take action on climate and biodiversity is now – not least because yesterday is no longer available,” said Fearnley-Whittingstall, who has fronted documentaries on a number of environmental issues.
“The CEE bill is the right blueprint for the government to show leadership with urgent action that will protect UK habitats and heal and restore our degraded landscapes. In a matter of years we will all be benefitting and may even be able to say that, finally, our leaders did something right for nature.”
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas tabled the legislation as a Private Members’ Bill in June, and it has since won the support of 110 MPs across eight political parties. Lucas said the recent devastating floods, which have claimed at least 160 lives in Germany and Belgium, were another wake-up call for the UK to act now on climate obligations.
“The extreme flooding in Europe last week is a clear reminder that the climate crisis is not a distant threat which impacts faraway places – it is already here and no place is safe,” Lucas said in a statement.
“We are dangerously close to the 1.5C temperature limit that the world signed up to in the Paris Agreement. As COP26 approaches, the UK hosts have to lead the way in halting global temperature rise and do much more to actively restore our natural world.”
MPs will debate the main points of the bill during a second reading in September.
A Government spokesperson said it “shared the passion of many others in ending our contribution to climate change and protecting our planet for this generation and those to come” and that it was “committed to meeting our world-leading climate commitments”.
They added that the Environment Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, would “go further in enshrining environmental targets into law, including a new target on species abundance for 2030 aiming to halt the decline of nature, alongside the creation of a powerful new watchdog to hold government and public bodies to account on their environmental credentials”.