Our climate reform is a ticking clock, and we still don’t have an Environment Bill to support change, 3 years from its initial penning. So where are we in the approach to COP26?
Sir David Attenborough this week stated climate change is a bigger threat than Coronavirus, as he was appointed The People’s Advocate for COP26 (the UN’s 26th Climate Change Conference of the Parties, taking place in November).
In a short video to mark 6 months until the summit, he said: “But the problems that await us within the next 5 – 10 years are even greater. It is crucial that these meetings in Glasgow, COP26, have success, and that at last the nations will come together to solve the crippling problems that the world now faces.”
What is the Environment Bill – a recap
The Queen’s promise
While in the same week the Queen’s Speech simply highlights her Government will invest in new green industries to create jobs (not new news really?), while protecting the environment.
The Queen stated from her parliamentary script “The United Kingdom is committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and will continue to lead the way internationally by hosting the COP26 Summit in Glasgow. Legislation will set binding environmental targets.” (referring to the constantly delayed Environment Bill).
But was this enough? The Tories promised in their manifesto the “most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth”. A 3-year delayed Environment Bill is what we currently have.
Currently the reduction in coal and gas use is driving greenhouse gas emission decline – however more is needed for all industries now to continue the trend.
The Queen’s speech is intended to outline bills and action that will complete within the parliamentary year. We’re on year 3 of the Environment Bill appearing, and at the time of writing, it’s only approaching the House of Lords for readings on the 27th of May.
While at the same time, this fact doesn’t seem to warrant national news coverage. The BBC doesn’t mention COP26 or climate change as an important subject in their key points review of the speech online or in news bulletin reviews – with a simple side mention of the delayed bill and two bullet point notes of the animal reform in their ‘environment’ summary. COP26 is arguably one of the biggest climate summits the UK will host, and no mention.
But do the people want to hear climate news?
Simply put, yes. The most notable indicator was the recent local elections, with the Green Party seeing unprecedented success across the UK. The party gained third place in the London Mayoral elections and became the second party in Bristol, gaining 14 seats. The Green Party could swiftly become the third-party, a place once firmly held by the Lib Dems. Potentially climate champions to lobby in the commons if they gain more MPs.
Climate news is trickling down to grassroot level outside of the Greta bubble of climate action, with O2 recently pledging to remove carbon (their O2 vs CO2 campaign) in recent Spotify ads. And you can’t watch an episode of Gardeners’ World without climate change and temperature changes being referenced.
Climate change is news – as Sir David pointed out, it’s the biggest threat to mankind for the next 5-10 years. Despite this our national news channels seemingly skirt around the topic unless a major actor within the climate sphere makes a statement or launches a campaign. That’s why we’re proud to be delivering policy news as it happens on our sister site, the Energy Advice Hub while focusing on what it means for businesses here and delving deeper when things have gone quiet from government.
Should we host COP26 without our own Environmental Bill?
Unless the House of Commons acts swiftly, followed by an easy passing in the House of Lords before Royal Assent, we may not have an Environment Bill before COP26 in November 2021. An embarrassment on a global scale. How can we as a nation help drive the change and conversation, when it takes over 3 years to make our own mark.
COP26 President-Designate, Alok Sharma, said: “Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity and the stakes could not be higher for our planet. The next decade will be make, or break, for cutting global emissions sufficiently to avoid the worst effects of climate change. That is why I am delighted to be working with Sir David, a hero for our country and our planet, to inspire action ahead of COP26.”
But will we get the reform the nation needs from the long-awaited Environment Bill? A bill that may not hold policy makers to account until 2037.