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Debate on the UK's progress toward net zero carbon emissions

Published Thursday, February 21, 2019

A general debate will be held on the UK's progress toward net zero carbon emissions on 28 February 2019. The subject for the debate has been chosen by the Backbench Business Committee, and it will be opened by Layla Moran.

The application for this debate was made by Layla Moran and Caroline Lucas with the following proposals: 

Layla Moran: Thank you very much for hearing from me again. This time, I thank Caroline for supporting me. Anna McMorrin was hoping to be here and is not able to, but she wanted to be here to illustrate the crossparty support we have for this.

Why now? Climate change continues to be one of the biggest pressing issues, not just for the UK but globally. I was struck when I was first elected by how little time it seems to be given generally on the Floor of the House. I noticed that last year there were three debates, only one of which was in the main Chamber; the other two were in Westminster Hall. Given how important this issue is, I personally found that very disappointing.

The reason for doing it now is that I am sure you will have noticed the student climate strike that happened last week. Regardless of what you personally feel—I was very supportive of them but as a teacher I really do not want them to keep doing it, because it would really have annoyed me in my physics classes, especially approaching exams—I think it is incumbent on Parliament to try to take some of that on board and show them that we are taking these concerns seriously. I can think of no better way to do that than by having a three-hour debate on the Floor of the House.

Chair, you will notice that we have got 20 speakers from every single political party, and I think that is just the beginning of the number of people who want to talk about this, from all sorts of different perspectives. The reason why we have chosen a slightly broader issue, but one that is narrow enough for a three-hour debate—it is “Progress towards net zero carbon emissions”—is because that is not what the Government currently want to do in the medium term. However, the fact that 160 MPs signed a letter to the Prime Minister asking for that by 2050 shows that the number of people who want something like that is quite broad.

The other reason to do it now is that we are in 2019, and the UK, we were told after the last COP conference, wants to bid for COP 2020. What better way to show our support for something like that than to have a debate on the Floor of the House?

Caroline Lucas: Just to emphasise what Layla has said, it is shocking that in 2018 there was literally one debate in the Chamber on climate change. The young people who took to the streets on Friday have put down a challenge to us, and we should demonstrate that we are very happy to pick that up and that we will show some real leadership when it comes to the climate crisis.

The whole debate would be in the context of the most recent IPCC report, which basically said that we have, now, just 11 years in which to halve global climate emissions if we are serious about this 1.5° threshold, so there is a real urgency in the global picture. Here at home, it is a really important moment to show real political leadership on this as well. As Layla said, in the Westminster Hall debate a couple of weeks ago a lot of people couldn’t speak for very long because it was oversubscribed, so there is a real appetite for this debate.

Information on the topic of this debate is available in the following resources:

Commons Debate packs CDP-2019-0049

Author: Sara Priestley

Topic: Climate change

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