This is a piece I have written in support of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill campaign.
COVID-19 has revealed a great deal about the world we live in. It’s shown us what works well—the vital role of our NHS, the kindness in our communities, and the life-saving scientific advances that have produced the vaccine. But the pandemic has also exposed elements that need fixing—and fast. Front and centre of these concerns is the dangers of climate change and the tragedy of ecological destruction: as Scotland begins to emerge from the pandemic, the climate-nature emergency must resume its place at the top of the political agenda.
As Glasgow prepares to host the UN COP26 conference in November, 2021 marks a unique opportunity for Scotland to be at the forefront of addressing these linked crises. COP26 is the most important summit on climate change since the 2015 Paris summit—and I’m proud to be co-lead for the SNP Westminster team in helping ensure that Scotland’s actions on climate and nature are lifted up for other nations to strive towards.
It’s for these reasons that I support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (CEE Bill) in Westminster. I’m proud to be amongst the first 100 MPs from across eight political parties in backing this revolutionary proposal. The CEE Bill is the only legislative plan before MPs that aims to address climate change while committing to restoring the UK’s ecological landscape. It creates a viable environmental strategy that many of us in Westminster have been crying out for—and it does it by involving citizens in that process.
The scale and severity of the climate and ecological emergency is stark for all to see—gone are the days of climate denialism. 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have taken place since 2000. Worldwide, over a million species are now threatened with extinction; more than ever before in human history. Action is needed now before it’s too late—but only last week MPs (again) called on the Westminster Government to provide detailed climate and nature plans before COP26—or risk the summit turning into an embarrassing failure.
In comparison, Scotland hasn’t shied away from addressing the crises. The SNP Government and First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, were the first in the UK to declare a climate emergency. Scotland has comprehensive emissions reductions legislation which already accounts for aviation and shipping, as the CEE Bill proposes for the UK. Given Scotland’s impressive record, I share the thoughts of so many of my colleagues who—during a recent CEE Bill debate—stated they hoped one day for Scotland to be an independent signatory to the Paris Agreement. Until then, COP26 is an immediate priority for the SNP—and Boris Johnson’s administration must lead by example to ensure that warm words turn into radical action.
Yet, as things currently stand, the UK Government is falling short on many of its own targets. The Climate Change Committee’s 2020 Progress Report found that only two of the 31 milestones for recommended actions have been fully achieved, with partial progress made on 15. 14 recommended actions—from replanting forests to insulating lofts—showed no progress at all. In addition, the UK is failing to meet 17 out of 20 biodiversity targets that were set back in 2010. This isn’t good enough—and they must do better.
All of this demonstrates why the CEE Bill is so crucial. If enacted, it would create a roadmap for the UK to meet its obligations in limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels—while also conserving nature by restoring our soils and reducing species loss. The Bill would also create a representative citizens’ assembly, similar to the one here in Scotland, that will bring together people from across the UK nations, empowering them to propose the steps needed for us to transition to a zero carbon society in a fair and just way.
31 SNP MPs now back the CEE Bill, representing the growing demand across Scotland for this much needed legislation to become law. The people of Scotland are serious about wanting urgent action to tackle the climate and ecological emergency, and I’m proud to echo their calls for action in Westminster. In this most crucial year for the planet, every day of inaction counts. It couldn’t be more important that MPs from all parties join the 100 who already support the CEE Bill—and push to make it law. Check out the #climate100 on the CEE Bill website—and join the campaign to get your local representatives to back this vital legislation. Our shared future depends on it.