Working towards a sustainable environment

Former Labour party leader Ed Miliband, the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas and former Conservative MP Laura Sandys have today (30 April) launched a cross-party Environmental Justice Commission aimed at ushering in a UK Green New Deal.

Lucas has already tabled a Decarbonisation and Economic Strategy Bill, which aims to place duties on the government to “decarbonise the economy and to eradicate inequality”

Lucas has already tabled a Decarbonisation and Economic Strategy Bill, which aims to place duties on the government to “decarbonise the economy and to eradicate inequality”

The MPs will act as chairs for the new Commission, which was set up by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). The aims of the Environmental Justice Commission are to “ally the issue of climate change with economic and social transformation”, namely through a Green New Deal.

Outlining the ambitions of the new Commission in a joint opinion piece on the Guardian, the chairs said: “We need to mobilise a carbon army of workers to retrofit and insulate homes, cutting bills, reducing emissions and making people’s lives better. We need to move to sustainable forms of transport and zero-carbon vehicles as quickly as possible, saving thousands of lives from air pollution.

“We need to end the opposition to onshore wind power and position ourselves as a global centre of excellence for renewable manufacturing. And we need to protect and restore threatened habitats, and to secure major transitions in agriculture and diets that are essential if we are to meet our obligations. Just in these areas of policy we already see an answer to the immediate economic concerns people have: jobs and hope.”

The Commission is committing to the creation of a “transformational plan” for a Green New Deal that couples the pressing need to align policy targets to the latest climate science with societal prosperity through green job growth.

Green New Deal

The Green New Deal movement recently hit mainstream media following Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s intentions to create a US iteration of the deal. While her first offering was unanimously rejected by senators, the movement has picked up pace, notably in the UK.

The Green New Deal focuses on a new approach to economic prosperity that guarantees decent work, ownership and democracy across sectors, by placing society and the planet at the heart of all key policies and growth opportunities. It encapsulates all the requirements of a net-zero target, but does so by focusing on societal prosperity. 

Lucas has already tabled a Decarbonisation and Economic Strategy Bill, which aims to place duties on the government to “decarbonise the economy and to eradicate inequality”. Specifically, it calls for a ten-year economic and public investment strategy “that prioritises decarbonisation, community and employee-led transition from high-carbon to low and zero-carbon industry and the eradication of inequality”.

It also calls for the Government to report on its implementation of the strategy, and for higher environmental standards for air, water and green spaces, as well as protecting and restoring natural habitats and is due for a second reading shortly.

The Commission notes the warnings highlighted in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) special report from last year, which notes that the world is already 1C warmer than pre-industrial levels, and that an increase to 2C would significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Specifically, it notes that the proportion of the global population exposed to water stress could be 50% lower at 1.5C than at 2C.

Specifically, the report predicts that if the world can become carbon-neutral by 2047, we will have a 66% chance of meeting the most ambitious end of the Paris Agreement pledge.

The Commission chairs claimed that the UK is uniquely positioned to lead on this by acting quickly, rather than waiting for other nations to collaboratively join the cause. The chairs also claimed that agreeing to this new policy framework would help set the tone for the 2020 climate change summit, which the UK is hoping to host.

The launch of the Commission comes the devolved Scottish and Welsh parliaments have made individual declarations of climate emergencies, as reported by Euractiv. Both declarations by the devolved parliaments noted the significant findings of the IPCC report.

It is expected that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will call on Central Government to make the same declaration later this week.

Matt Mace