How would you ask your MP to tackle climate emergency?

Green recovery

What would you ask your MP to do to battle the Climate Emergency, if you had the chance? Today, the Climate Coalition is giving people across the UK the chance to press their MPs for action, with a designated day of action.

Last year, 12,000 people gathered outside Parliament, with many of them being granted an audience with their Member of Parliament in groups. This year, social distancing restrictions mean that gatherings can’t happen. It will all be done on Zoom, if your MP agrees to meet.

The Climate Coalition campaign aims to put constituents in an area together to meet their MP. They are calling their campaign The Time Is Now – to put people, climate and nature at the heart of the UK’s recovery from Covid-19.

If I had the chance today, I would ask my MP to: note the Government’s declaration of a Climate Emergency as a gateway to change and note the public mood; consider many of the Climate Coalition’s asks; and back a couple of existing campaigns.

There are some very worthy over-arching asks: apply a net-zero carbon emissions test to all spending and taxation measures; launch an infrastructure programme to insulate homes; ensure that Covid-19 rescue packages meet strict conditions that align to the 1.5 Degree C commitment in the Paris Climate Agreement.

The Coalition also asks that the UK sets world-leading targets for nature’s restoration in the Environment Bill, puts sustainability at the heart of future trade policies and increases investment in walking and cycling.

The latter has started to happen, with much chatter, for example, about the prospect of reducing two lanes for drivers in Reigate town centre to one, to make way for a cycle lane.

In addition, I would emphasise to my MP that the UK Government, under Theresa May, declared a Climate Emergency. (Or rather, she didn’t oppose the Labour opposition’s proposal to declare a Climate Emergency – and the resolution was passed.) The point is, that puts the climate front and central of any policy making.

I would also point out that our current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said he wants to “build back better” after the pandemic, including environmentally. On this matter, I would ask why very little has happened from Government since then and is the UK Government really serious about the climate emergency? It won the right to host the next climate summit, Cop26 which has been postponed until 2021, because it was one of the first countries to put a net zero target for carbon dioxide into law.

I would ask him why the Cabinet’s Climate Committee, which Boris Johnson insisted on leading, has only met once since last October? This was in March? And I also want to know why minutes of these meetings will not be made public?

Then, I would be asking my MP to join the list of his elected colleagues, who chair and therefore speak for two influential committees, in urging the Chancellor to put the climate emergency at the heart of economic recovery plans. They get the point that the climate emergency will be “an even greater future global crisis”. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, is said to be planning a “green recovery package“. We shall see.

Furthermore, I would be asking my MP to back a couple of campaigns, as a first step towards thinking about the environment. Will that “green recovery package” go far enough? For example, the Teach the Future campaign noted yesterday’s announcement of £1bn for school buildings. However, its campaign has researched that the actual costs of dealing with new and crumbling schools is £6.7billion. These figures match the spending watchdog and the National Audit Office figures.

Teach the Future also asks for an overhaul to the curriculum, to embed environmentalism into many more subjects than it is at present. But it also wants £23bn invested to retro-fit buildings to make them net zero, to inspire generations of children. Teach the Future have drafted a Parliamentary Bill and have the backing of more than 50 organisations.

I would be asking my MP to back Power for People’s Local Electricity Bill, to lift the barriers to communities who want to come together to set up as renewable energy suppliers. This already has the support of 187 MPs, from all parties. I would also be asking him to improve the “lot” of setting up onshore wind farms, a campaign run by the same organisation which has 164 MPs supporting it already. Some of them are quite local to here.

I would also be asking for a national, consistent “kerb side” recycling system. As previously explored, there are 39 different collection systems nationwide. Why do only 11% of councils collect film and foodbags? 10% cling film? 10% plant pots? 7% plastic pouches? Why cannot these be made consistent and expanded? Instead, we as consumers must rely on finding alternative drop off points to recycle many items through TerraCycle. This system does not help residents or packaging creators.

The rise of the School Strikes 4 Climate movement, inspired by Greta Thunberg, and the mass movement of Extinction Rebellion – uniting small pockets of environmentalism from across the globe – show the huge push of environmentalism up the public political agenda.

Many organisations are announcing how they will address climate emergency issues. Unilever said recently it will invest Euro 1bn in climate change projects and reduce carbon emissions in its products by 2039. It’s a “cradle to shelf” commitment, it says. We await the detail of how it will reduce all that plastic in single-use products – sachets, bottles and cartons – that pollute our outdoor environments. They are not the only manufacture whose products end up in our parks, on our beaches and in our waterways.

The relevant catchphrase for our MP to use to to the Prime Minister – who likes a catchphrase – is one he already knows: ‘listen to the science’. In this case, of the urgency pressed by climate scientists. The other message now, to my MP, has to be ‘listen to your fellow MPs who are already calling for environmental change’.