The Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill is a Private Member’s Bill* that was introduced to Parliament by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas in September 2020. The CEE Bill grew from some of the demands made by Extinction Rebellion activists, and has been written by the CEE Bill Alliance – a group of scientists, lawyers, academics and activists. The key aims of the bill are to ensure the UK plays a fair role in ensuring global temperature increase is limited to 1.5°C, and to actively conserve the natural world, with a focus on biodiversity, carbon sinks and soil degradation.
*A Private Member’s Bill is a way for MPs who are not government ministers to introduce new laws into Parliament.
The bill recognises that climate change is inextricably linked to other environmental problems, and seeks a fair and just transition to a zero-carbon future, whilst repairing the harms that have been done to the natural world. In addition to protecting the environment here in the UK, the CEE Bill would require the UK to take responsibility for emissions and environmental damage caused by imported goods that are bought and used by UK consumers. This is important for ensuring climate and environmental justice - as UK consumers, we often benefit from things that are produced cheaply through the exploitation of people and natural resources overseas. As individuals, it is time-consuming and difficult to find out what went into making our clothes or smartphones, so it is vital that companies and governments are held accountable for any harm to people and planet caused by the production of consumer goods.
The CEE Bill aims to take existing environmental legislation further, and fill in the gaps of our current climate laws. The 2008 Climate Change Act set a target of reducing the UK’s net greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. In 2019, the UK declared a climate emergency, and although the government has recently set more ambitious emissions reduction targets and announced funding for green jobs, we are not on track to meet 2050 emissions targets, and there are concerns that more needs to be done to protect the environment.
The key points that make the CEE Bill more ambitious than existing legislation are:
Accounting for the UK’s total carbon footprint. At present, neither emissions from products that are produced overseas and imported to the UK, nor those from international aviation and shipping are included in our emissions totals. This means that we are not held responsible for the emissions relating to the UK’s consumption of goods and services. The CEE Bill would ensure that all emissions related to UK consumption are fairly accounted for, so that other countries are not held solely responsible for emissions that are produced on behalf of UK consumers, and so that more progress can be made in reducing emissions from aviation and shipping.
Use of unproven technologies. The CEE Bill would not allow for the use of unproven ‘negative-emissions technologies’ such as carbon capture and storage and geoengineering, due to their high cost and low technological-readiness, with some exceptions for industries that are difficult to decarbonise (e.g. steel production). This means that more attention can be given to reducing emissions that are produced in the first place, rather than depending on technologies that may take decades to have the necessary impact on emissions.
Ensuring the abundance and health of UK ecosystems. Current UK climate approaches discuss biodiversity as an additional benefit to land-use changes that are needed to reach net-zero. However, the CEE Bill calls for an approach that focuses on the restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems, rather than seeing the protection of nature as an afterthought.
Protection of the natural world from damage by supply chains. The CEE Bill aims to ensure that the harmful effects of human consumption on the natural world are minimised, at home and internationally. From mining to deforestation, intensive water use and pollution, the bill aims to ensure that companies and individuals are held responsible for environmental damage. This applies to goods produced both in and out of the UK, ensuring that we take responsibility for the impact of our consumption in other countries.
A Citizen’s Assembly for a just transition. To ensure a fair transition to a zero-carbon society, it is vital that members of the public are able to inform the decisions made by governments. A Citizen’s Assembly for climate change was held in the UK in spring 2020, but issues surrounding biodiversity and the ecological crisis have not been discussed; the CEE Bill aims to ensure that the public are able to have their voices heard on these issues too.
For the CEE Bill to be voted through Parliament, it needs to gain the support of as many MPs as possible. As of December 2020, over 80 MPs from 6 different parties have expressed their support for the bill, but with 650 MPs in total, there’s a lot that needs to be done to make sure the bill is passed into law.
How can you get involved?
Contact Your MP. We can write to, email, or tweet our MPs, asking them to lend their support to the CEE Bill. The second reading of the bill is on 12th March 2021, so try to get in touch with them before then. Join the campaign via the CEE Bill Campaign website, and you will be able to find helpful information on how best to approach your MP about this issue, as well as resources you can share on social media. If you want to find out whether your MP has supported this or other environmental legislation in the past, check out UKYCC’s Talking Won’t Cut It site, which outlines the voting records of all MPs going back as far as the 2008 Climate Change Act.
Sign these petitions. There is a petition asking the government to ensure that the CEE Bill is properly debated in parliament and an additional 38 Degrees petition asking the government to implement the bill.
Donate to the CEE Bill Campaign. The CEE Bill Alliance is aiming to raise £50,000 to allow them to continue to build momentum for the CEE Bill and pay their part-time staff. They have raised £19,000 so far and if you are able to do so, you can donate here.
Spread the word. Talking to friends and family about the CEE Bill and encouraging them to talk to their MPs about it is really important – the more pressure we are able to put on our elected representatives, the more likely they are to support the CEE Bill and make sure we are doing all we can to protect the planet.
Ambitious environmental laws like the CEE Bill play a vital role in ensuring governments take the necessary steps to reduce emissions and protect the natural world, and we can all play a part in making that happen. Contact your MP today and ask them to play their part in protecting our planet.
UKYCC is a supporter of the CEE Bill Alliance.