MPs in the U.K.’s House of Commons have bowed to public pressure and passed a motion declaring an environmental and climate emergency.
The declaration was tabled by Labor, but does not translate into a concrete promise on behalf of parliament to legislate new environmental measures, however- it’s a largely symbolic move. “While it demonstrates the will of the Commons,” the BBC explains it does not “compel the government to act.”
Environment Secretary Michael Grove confirmed that the government believed “the situation we face is an emergency,” but stopped short of supporting the move of declaring one. In addition, there was also a motion tabled to set a net-zero target for greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
While tabling the declaration, Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn called on members of the House of Commons to acknowledge the “devastating impact” that humans have had on the environment.
“We have no time to waste,” he said. “We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control unless we take rapid and dramatic action now.”
“This is no longer about a distant future. We are talking about nothing less than the irreversible destruction of the environment within our lifetimes.”
While many media outlets are reporting on Labor’s claim that the UK is the first country in the world to declare such an emergency, the first call actually came from Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, just days ago; Wales followed Scotland’s lead shortly after.
She took to the podium warning that the world was facing a “climate emergency” and reiterated that Scotland would “lead by example” in tackling it.
“A few weeks ago,” she said, “I met some of the young climate change campaigners who’ve gone on strike from school to raise awareness of their cause.”
“They want governments around the world to declare a climate emergency. They say that’s what the science tells us, and they are right.”
“Today, as first minister of Scotland, I am declaring that there is a climate emergency and Scotland will live up to our responsibility to tackle it,” Sturgeon said.
Over the past few weeks, climate groups like the Extinction Rebellion hit the streets of London, calling for Parliament to declare an official climate emergency. “This is the first step in the government telling the truth about the climate and ecological emergency,” the group said in a statement.
They continued: "pressure on politicians will now increase, as nothing but decisive action will suffice.”
Leader of the U.K.’s Labor party, Jeremy Corbyn said the declaration marked a “huge step forward” in the fight against climate change.
“This can set off a wave of action from parliaments and governments around the globe,” he said.
“We pledge to work as closely as possible with countries that are series about ending the climate catastrophe and make clear to US President Donald Trump that he cannot ignore international agreements and action on the climate crisis.”
Very shortly, the Committee on Climate Change - an advisory body to the UK government - will hand down its latest report; we’ll be sure to report on its findings, and the subsequent reaction from the UK parliament.
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