Here are some frequently asked questions from campaigners about the CEE Bill and its progress in Parliament. Over the first half of June 2021, we will be adding further answers to questions around campaigning strategy and why the Bill is needed on top of existing and other proposed legislation.
The science is clear—greenhouse gas emissions are making the planet hotter. If they keep rising, we face unacceptable risks including the loss of the Amazon rainforest, sea level rise and frequent failures of staple crops.
Since humans started burning fossil fuels, the average global temperature has risen by just over 1ºC—see this graph from NASA. That might not sound like much, but it is already causing a marked increase in fires, floods, crop failure and extreme weather across the planet. Every extra fraction of a degree amplifies these effects, adding to suffering and economic cost both here in the UK, and around the world. And the longer we leave it, the greater the risk of crossing dangerous tipping points which would accelerate warming, threatening our very way of life.
There is still time to act, to clean our air and restore and protect nature. Scientists tell us that it is not too late to bring climate change under control and restore the health of the natural world for our children and grandchildren, but only if we are prepared to take bold action immediately.
David Attenborough said in 2019: "It may sound frightening, but the scientific evidence is that if we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies. We are running out of time, but there is still hope."Less
The last few decades have seen a major loss of wildlife around the world, which scientists are calling the sixth mass extinction. This degradation of the natural world is not just a tragedy for the plants and animals forever lost, but also poses a huge risk for human populations.
We depend on a healthy planet for our survival—for the pollination of our crops and for clean water and air. Scientists have warned of looming ecological collapse if politicians fail to take emergency action.
- 41% of all UK species have declined since the 1970s (hedgehogs by 95%).
- 26% of the UK's mammals are at a very real risk of becoming extinct.
- A third of the wild bees and hoverfly species have been lost, likely due to pesticides, habitat loss and climate change.
- 97% of the UK’s wildflower meadows have disappeared in the last century. Read more from Kew Gardens on why wildflower meadows are so important.
The Government must give more focus to this issue, which is closely connected with climate change. The climate and ecological crises must be tackled together, with an appreciation of their interdependencies. The CEE Bill would formally recognise the link between the climate and ecological crises, helping ensure that solving problems in one doesn’t inadvertently create problems in the other.Less
About the Bill
You can read the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill on this webpage. The page also includes a list of contributors to the Bill. Please note that the official title of the Bill for parliamentary purposes is the ‘Climate and Ecology Bill’.
The CEE Bill calls for an emergency strategy for the UK to address the crisis. By passing the bill, the Government would be making a legal commitment to follow the science.
The CEE Bill would ensure that the UK:
- Makes its fair share of emissions cuts necessary to limit the increase in global temperatures to 1.5°C (the more ambitious end of the Paris Agreement).
- Accounts for its entire carbon footprint wherever the emissions occur. This means taking real action on the emissions we cause overseas through the production, trade and transportation of the things we consume.
- Actively conserves the natural world. It would protect and restore our ecosystems, and encourage biodiversity, healthy soils and thriving natural carbon sinks.
- Takes responsibility for its impact on nature around the world. This means being honest about the damage to the environment caused by our consumption, making sure we reduce our global impact.
The Bill sees the creation of a Climate Assembly that would put forward recommendations for the emergency strategy to Government and Parliament. This group of ordinary citizens, selected at random like a jury, would listen to expert evidence before reaching conclusions on the best way forward. Their recommendations would be debated in Parliament, but MPs would still have the final say.
This is also the only proposed legislation in the UK that integrates our response to the climate and nature emergencies. The repair of our natural world and action on climate are two sides of the same coin.Less
There is more than one way to address the climate and ecological emergency. And we really don’t have to hunt around for answers: scientists and experts have been formulating these for decades. But what is missing is a sense of political urgency and a joined-up, cross-party way of thinking away from day-to-day politics.
The CEE Bill creates a robust framework that would hold the UK to the science, making sure that whichever path we take, we do everything we can to limit global heating and the destruction of the natural world. No specific policies are mentioned. It is down to Parliament and Government to identify these in formulating the emergency strategy, with the help of the Climate Assembly. The Bill makes sure that whatever the precise contents of the Government’s strategy, it is consistent with the overall aim of keeping global warming within 1.5ºC and limiting our impact on nature.
With this Bill, we want to make sure that politicians begin by recognising our current reality and the scope of the challenge. This is the first essential step that lays the ground for detailed and adequate policy decisions.Less
UK law currently requires us to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. ‘Net zero’ means that on balance we are not putting any more emissions into the atmosphere.
We know that net zero is our destination—but, actually, it is not so much when we get there that matters, but more the path we take. This is why the CEE Bill does not contain a specific net zero target date.
Instead, the CEE Bill draws on the idea of the “carbon budget”. This divvies up the emissions that each country can produce if we are to stay within safe global temperatures.
The world’s leading UN climate scientists told us in 2018 that we must not put more than another 420 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere if we want a reasonable (66%) chance of keeping the global average temperature rise within 1.5ºC.
How long we can keep burning fossil fuels then depends on how quickly we get on with cutting emissions. Let’s look at three possible paths we could have followed from 2018.
Illustration - fixed % pathway to net zero from 2018
1. Faster at first
As you can see in the graph on the left, this would stop us eating through our 420 billion tonne budget too quickly, allowing us to continue burning fossil fuels until 2050.
This would have required 8% annual cuts immediately from 2019.
Illustration - equal cuts pathway to net zero from 2018
2. Slower start
Cutting less steeply at first means the budget gets used up faster in the early years. So to stay within our 420 billion tonne budget, we must then reach net zero sooner!
Illustration - actual to 2020, with delay until end 2023
3. More delay
Here’s what actually happened up to 2020 where you see a dip due to the pandemic. But emissions in 2021 are now already back at 2019 levels.
If we fail to start seriously cutting until 2024 then, to stay within our budget, we will have to really hit the brakes - even more sharply than during lockdown…
4. Tunnel vision on 2050
Setting distant targets without a focus on reducing emissions right now is a recipe for disaster.
Here’s what could happen if emissions keep inching up until 2024. Look how easy it is to really overshoot our budget if we don’t get to grips with emissions right now! In this scenario, we use double the budget—840 billion tonnes—despite still reaching net zero in 2050.
Every extra day of delay means even steeper cuts will be needed to avoid blowing our carbon budget. Focusing exclusively on net zero by 2050 makes very little sense.
That’s why the CEE Bill would require performance to be monitored annually against legally binding targets to make sure we stay on track.Less
How can this Bill become law?
The CEE Bill was developed by scientists, academics and lawyers, along with members of the Big Ask campaign, which led to the Climate Change Act back in 2008. The campaign for the CEE Bill was launched in August 2020 and introduced in Parliament the following month as a Private Members’ Bill.
The Bill gained the maximum support of cosponsors with 12 members of parliament (MPs) from seven different parties. Cosponsors are MPs who put their name to a Bill in order to present it in Parliament. Caroline Lucas (Green Party) is the principal sponsor of the CEE Bill and the 11 other cosponsors are: Alan Brown (SNP), Stephen Farry (Alliance), Claire Hanna (SDP), Wera Hobhouse (Lib Dems), Ben Lake (Plaid Cymru), Clive Lewis (Labour), Liz Saville Roberts (Plaid Cymru), Tommy Sheppard (SNP), Alex Sobel (Labour), Zarah Sultana (Labour) and Nadia Whittome (Labour). On 2 September Caroline Lucas introduced the CEE Bill in the House of Commons for the first time.Less
What is a Private Members’ Bill and why are we using one? What are its different forms (Presentation Bill, Ten Minute Rule Bill and Ballot Bill)?
A Private Members’ Bill is a proposal for a new law that does not come from the Government (like the majority of proposed legislation) but from backbench MPs. Private Members’ Bills are often used to raise awareness of an issue and are rarely passed straight into law. However, they can lead to new laws indirectly. That’s why they have become a tried-and-tested route for campaigners to push for new legislation. Read on for an explanation of the different kinds of Private Members’ Bills.
There are several ways that a Private Members’ Bill can progress through Westminster to become law. One way is for the Government to take it up for themselves and make it law as a Government-led proposal. This is what happened with the ‘Big Ask’ campaign. The group introduced a Private Members’ Bill in 2005, which eventually led to the Government-supported Climate Change Act 2008.
There are three (main) types of Private Members’ Bill: the Presentation Bill, the Ten Minute Rule Bill and the Ballot Bill. The CEE Bill has started life as a Presentation Bill. This is a first step into Parliament. It allows us to gain support inside and outside Westminster, familiarise MPs and Peers with the Bill and develop our counter arguments in response to any objections. To read more about what happened with the Presentation Bill in the first phase of the campaign, see this blog.
With the start of a new parliamentary session in May 2021, Caroline Lucas is reintroducing the CEE Bill on 21 June, again as a Presentation Bill. This means we keep a foothold in parliament and can continue to build support for the campaign. However, just like in the first phase of the campaign, it is unlikely that the Bill will be debated as a Presentation Bill. That's why Caroline is also seeking to obtain an upcoming slot in summer/autumn 2021 to introduce the Bill as a Ten Minute Rule Bill. With this type of Bill, the MP sponsoring the Bill (in our case, Caroline Lucas) has ten minutes—known as the “first reading”—in the House of Commons to make the case for it. An opposing MP (if there is one) is then also given ten minutes to outline arguments against the proposal. That’s why it was important that we build support for the campaign before taking this step. We can now anticipate what that counter case will look like. And second, the campaign now has enough momentum behind it to withstand a critique in Parliament: campaigns that begin life as a Ten Minute Rule Bill risk falling at this first hurdle.
The next phase would be to introduce the CEE Bill as a Ballot Bill. Ballot Bills are introduced by MPs (and Peers) who are randomly drawn by lot. These Private Members’ Bills are the most likely to become law in their own right, as they are prioritised on the parliamentary timetable. We haven’t pursued a Ballot Bill yet as we need to make sure that we have enough MPs on side first. Ballot Bills are much more likely to get onto the next rung up the ladder to becoming law—the “second reading”—than Presentation or Ten Minute Rule Bills. During the second reading, MPs decide whether the Bill can progress onto the next stage—”committee stage”—and are often vulnerable to opposition. It’s therefore critical to have support of close to 50% of MPs before taking this route. Without that level of support, a Ballot Bill risks being knocked back with nowhere else to go for the entire parliamentary session.
All the time we are ‘on the books’ in Parliament using the mechanisms available to us, we raise the profile of the Bill among MPs and Peers and apply pressure on the Government, making it ever more likely that it takes up the Bill itself.
So if your MP says that “it’s just a Private Members’ Bill and won’t lead to anything,” it’s important to remember that using this kind of parliamentary mechanism is a strategic step in a well-trodden campaign path to success. We know that Westminster processes are complex and unclear, but when it comes down to it, it’s pretty simple: the more MPs that support the CEE Bill, the more likely it is to become law—one way or another.
For a helpful explanation of Private Members’ Bills more generally, take a look at the Hansard Society site.Less
To drum up support for the Bill in Parliament, you can apply for various debates. While these debates don’t form part of the Bill’s official passage into law, they provide an opportunity to raise its profile and get MPs talking about it. This is a super important part of our campaign. Just because a Bill has been presented in Parliament, this is by no means a guarantee that MPs will take it seriously—or even read it. So we need to use every opportunity to put it on their radar, familiarise them with its contents, and persuade them that they need to back it.
Westminster Hall debates give MPs an opportunity to raise local or national issues and receive a response from a Government minister. Adjournment debates last about half an hour at the end of each day in Parliament. They are an opportunity for an individual backbench MP to raise an issue and receive a response from the relevant minister. In January 2021, our campaign organised an adjournment debate on the CEE Bill. It featured MPs from the Greens, Labour, SNP, LibDems and Plaid Cymru all joining forces to make a strong case for why we need this Bill. To read more about our adjournment debate see our blog.Less
Early Day Motions (EDMs) are used to put on record the views of individual MPs or to highlight specific events or campaigns. By attracting the signatures of other MPs, they can be used to demonstrate the level of parliamentary support for a particular cause and often get the attention of the press. The Big Ask Campaign successfully used an EDM to gain consensus around the main contents of the bill that eventually became the Climate Change Act 2008. Towards the end of the campaign, the EDM had been signed by 412 out of 650 MPs.
During the CEE Bill’s first outing in Parliament, Caroline Lucas laid down an EDM (no. 832), which you can read here. The campaign is likely to table a second EDM during the 2021/22 parliamentary session. To find out more about EDMs, see this page on the parliament website.Less
So what next? The current CEE Bill “fell” at the end of the last parliamentary session on 29th April 2021. But a new session of Parliament began on 11 May 2021, and we will be reintroducing the Bill at the earliest opportunity (probably June) as a Ten Minute Rule Bill.
We aim to get members of every major political party to cosponsor it in order to have complete cross-party support from the get-go. We also have the opportunity to introduce the Bill in the House of Lords as well as the House of Commons. And we can re-establish an Early Day Motion (EDM), which MPs can sign as an additional show of support. The process of translating support from one bill to the next is a really energetic moment for the campaign and we hope to get plenty of new support as well as regaining the backing from our current MPs and allies. Campaigners in Conservative constituencies can help by inviting their MPs to co-sponsor the Bill.Less
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