Few MPs attend the first climate change debate in two years – the whole story?
A BES policy intern in Scotland delves deeper into the recent climate change debate - find out what she discovered.
The recent media reports of the sparsely attended, first climate change debate in the House of Commons in two years (see here and here) – received lots of attention in my social media feeds. Since recently starting a placement with the BES – SPG I’m really interested in current environmental-policy issues – so I decided to delve deeper into the details of the debate.
I learned a lot, not just about the debate – but also the availability of resources that let you stay well-informed on current political issues. I compiled some of them into a hyperlink-loaded list points of interest to give anyone new to these topics a starting point to find out more.
- The General debate on the UK’s progress towards net zero-carbon emissions was held on the 28th Feb. 2019 on the Floor of the House. A general debate means it is debated without committing the House to an opinion or course of action – in other words, these debates generally aren’t voted on, but they do show levels of MP support for particular topics.
- A transcript of the debate can be read on the UK Parliament Hansard website, and you can watch the whole three-hour debate on UK Parliament TV here. The Hansard website publishes ‘substantially verbatim’ reports on what is said in Parliament. A search for the term ‘climate change’ brings up details of more than 5000 spoken or written references (that you can read in full) – and even displays a bar chart of daily counts of those references.
- The debate motion (application) was put forward by MPs Layla Moran and Caroline Lucas to the Backbench Business Committee. The Backbench Business Committee is a Common’s Select Committee – their remit is to consider requests from backbench MPs (as opposed to frontbench MPs).
- The debate was inspired by the recent student climate strike – Layla Moran MP said the UK Parliament should show they are taking the student’s concerns seriously, and the UK hasn’t been doing enough to drive down emissions. It was the first time climate change had been debated on the Floor of the House since September 2016, although not the first time it was given attention in Parliament at all.
Lots of ecological knowledge and evidence was referenced during the debate:
- Mary Creagh MP mentioned the cascading effects of climate change and biodiversity loss, and the importance of soil health.
- Ruth George MP mentioned the Peak District’s Moors for the Future project which aims to improve carbon sequestration in the peat moors.
- Vicky Ford MP mentioned the importance of investing in universities for Britain to lead on how to protect soils.
- Zac Goldsmith MP mentioned the importance of funding scientists at Kew Gardens to help developing countries adapt to climate change and to be leaders in restoring ecosystems.
I was impressed by the breadth of ecological knowledge the MPs displayed and their ability to speak succinctly on these complex issues.
- The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is the UK’s independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008 – set up to ensure emissions targets are set based on evidence and to monitor the UK’s progress towards meeting carbon budget targets.
- The CCC is due to publish the advice to the UK, Scottish, and Welsh Governments on long-term targets for greenhouse gas emissions and the UK’s transition to a net zero-carbon economy on the 2nd May 2019.
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