Thoughts on the National Emergency Declaration

Many of you will have seen that the UK Parliament has joined the Scottish and Welsh governments in declaring a Climate Emergency. It is really uplifting to find the UK leading the way for a change (and not into the abyss!). People might be wondering whether this makes a local climate emergency declaration superfluous (short answer: no, it doesn’t), and if not, where it leaves our campaign. For what it’s worth, my thoughts are as follows:

The UK parliament has declared an emergency but the government has not (though Michael Gove has admitted there is an emergency). This means the declaration is still primarily symbolic, and not a declaration of intention to “treat the emergency as an emergency” as Greta Thunberg says.

Moreover, the parliamentary declaration has been very poorly reported—indeed, when one sees it reported below stories on cycling and cricket, even in the Guardian, it is hard not to conclude that it has at times been deliberately buried. The point of the climate emergency campaigns is to communicate to the public the need to enter “emergency mode”, as Jane Morton has explained in her Don’t Mention the Emergency booklet. So a local emergency declaration is still worthwhile as the state of emergency has yet to be presented to the public with appropriate urgency.

We also still need a local emissions reduction plan, whatever the national situation. But local campaigns are also still necessary to radicalise planning targets. Gove has promised quick new legislation which would be “a step change in how this country tackles the twin challenges of climate change and broader ecological degradation”. Hopefully this will involve some measures that make local council targets easier to set and meet. But the national conversation remains focused on a 2050 deadline for zero carbon, as does the Committee on Climate Change report being reported in the national media at the moment. This is nowhere near the 2030 deadline the IPCC called for back in October, to give us a chance of remaining below 1.5°C. Extinction Rebellion is now calling for a 2025 deadline, and is not impressed:

I agree with this. Pushing for a 2030 (or better) deadline locally is thus very necessary in the struggle against climate breakdown.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Idris Hughes

    Stephen puts all of this into good focus with a reasonable and duly suspicious take on our Parliament’s declaration of a state of Climate Emergency. These are words. The list of what quite obvious actions should be taken with almost immediate effect is already extensive without giving it much thought at all. Obvious, that is, to those of us capable of lucid thinking and honest talking – two attributes seemingly almost completely absent in our present government. As for the list; I’ll start by rattling-off some of my favourites and leave you to add your own. Immediately exempt electric vehicles from all tax including VAT, re-instate grants to acquire them and their chargers, immediately reinstate FIT rates for solar power systems and incentives to install them, Immediately require all new-build property to sport rooftop solar water-heating and solar power, prepare measures to ration all air travel, introduce new “emergency” scaled taxation on all fossil fuel consuming activity, immediately instruct all Local Authorities to review street lighting practices, etc. etc etc !

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