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Climate and Ecology Bill: Uniting Solutions

By Tina Rothery - Greeener Jobs Alliance, May 21, 2023

The first page of the Greener Jobs Alliance website makes clear what’s needed to face the challenges posed by ever increasing harm to the climate – uniting campaigns and bringing together the solutions.

I work with the campaign group, Zero Hour, on the Climate & Ecology Bill, and as highlighted on our website, we make clear we think the same:

“Zero Hour has been working hard to build a broad and representative alliance of support for the CE Bill, including 165 MPs and Peers, 230 local authorities, 144 leading scientists, 465 organisations—including The Co-operative Bank, Women’s Institutes, National Education Union, and University College—alongside 30,000 members of the public.”

Bringing together a diverse range of groups and organisations to create and support solutions that are essential to a just transition just makes sense—and the power of ‘unions’ has never been clearer. This article asks that the GJA, and its supporters, consider joining Zero Hour in this union – and supporting the CE Bill as one of the solutions.

A legislative framework to be confident in

We can’t rely on weak, non-binding ‘pledges’ and ‘agreements’. We need a legal framework to provide the confidence needed to bring about investment in a just transition. If the CE Bill becomes law, it would mean that the Government would deliver a new, joined-up, and people-powered environmental strategy that would add a key legislative aspect to the range of solutions, providing industries, investors, and workers with much needed confidence and clarity.

 “The investment needed to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss have a time horizon that extends beyond any single parliamentary term. With so many stop-start initiatives over recent decades, the Government needs to provide the assurance of a statutory commitment to climate and nature goals if we are to unlock the huge amount of investment we need.”—Dr Amy McDonnell (Co-Director, Zero Hour)

A just law for a just transition

We’re all impacted by the climate and ecological emergency, but the impact is unequal; some communities are harder hit than others. At Zero Hour, we see it as critical to ensure that no section of society is left behind in the transition. This is why the CE Bill contains a ‘social lock’ to protect vulnerable communities, as well as the following measures:

The Government must provide financial support and retraining to enable workers to transition from high-emissions and high-impact industries to new jobs in a zero carbon economy. The new environmental strategy we need must be designed to ensure a positive and fair impact on local communities with high levels of deprivation.

Beyond the borders (that the environment doesn’t recognise anyway)

Taking responsibility for the UK’s global emissions and ecological impact is a vital part of the CE Bill. It calls on the Government to account for emissions caused in the manufacture of our imports, and our share of international, aviation and shipping emissions. The UK is the largest net importer of CO2 emissions in the G7—and that’s shameful—we have a huge opportunity to bring jobs and services home, reducing our carbon and ecological footprint at the same time.

Nature too has no borders, and a priority for all governments in the Global North must be to stabilise Earth’s critical carbon sinks and stores—our ‘global safety net’ ecosystems—such as tropical forests, peatlands, wetlands, and the oceans. Many of these are the richest remaining areas for biodiversity, which is critical to keeping them functioning. When writing these words, I shuddered again with the awareness of how much this matters; this is quite literally our life-support system. We must protect it, and we must ensure—via the CE Bill—that the Government reverses its destruction.

Seats at the table

A motion from Unite at a recent TUC conference (‘Defending jobs and a just transition’) included a strengthening amendment from GMB calling for the protection of jobs “through decarbonisation of existing industries in consultation with workers in those industries”. This is the right approach, and CE Bill also calls for the transition to include the voices of those impacted:

The IPCC has set out the need for “rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. Achieving a broad public consensus on the way forward will be essential in rising to this challenge. The UK public must be informed about, and feel consulted on, the changes that are needed. That’s why the CE Bill includes a temporary, representative ‘climate and nature assembly’ to advise Parliament on the just transition strategy we need. This citizens’ assembly would provide visible, democratic legitimacy for the changes that are required; and root in the ideas and voices of workers at its heart.

What’s not to love

If the CE Bill becomes law, the targets the Government will be obliged to meet would drive a step change in the pace of decarbonisation transition—as well as in the natural world. Rapid expansion of renewables, electrification, and retrofitting buildings to increase energy efficiency would unlock growth in associated jobs and sectors; and end our dependence on foreign tyrants’ fossil fuels, like Putin, and the knock on energy and cost of living crises that have paralysed so many.

The CE Bill framework would also bring about a transformation of our food system and improve both food and energy security—driving down the rocketing cost of living. Outsourcing our energy and food overseas are the primary causes of unprecedented price increases. Becoming more self-sufficient in food production would boost local economies by shortening supply lines, and (as analysis from Sustain shows) could create as many as 200,000 new jobs.

You know this, the unions know this, and so do we. There are huge opportunities for new, rewarding, green jobs at the heart of our communities. We can seize this opportunity if we support each other and bring the solutions together—united.

So close…

Last week, the (Sheffield Hallam) Labour MP Olivia Blake reintroduced the CE Bill into the House of Commons. Previously, it was twice introduced by Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas in 2020 and 2021, and is now supported by MPs and Peers from every major party.

“I’m excited to be leading this cross-party effort for the UK to lock—in law—the ambition and the action we need to tackle the environmental crisis. This is not a matter of partisan politics. It is a matter of survival. It is about providing a sustainable way of life for our nation today—and for generations yet to come.”—Olivia Blake MP

Ed Miliband was there too, who joined Olivia to mark the occasion, offering the Labour Party’s support for the “ambition and objectives” of the CE Bill, saying:

“Congratulations to Olivia for bringing forward the CE Bill in Parliament. We know this is the right thing to do, because it will lower people’s energy bills, give us energy security—create jobs—and tackle the climate and nature emergency that we face. What’s important about the CE Bill is that it addresses both together. We know that the Government isn’t acting with nearly the urgency that’s required on both. If there’s a Labour Government, we’ll make sure we do so.”

Over to you.

Addendum by Paul Atkin:

On the Climate and Ecology Bill; the very welcome recognition that emissions from consumption are a more accurate measure of how sustainable a society is becoming than emissions from production – as countries like the UK have outsourced a lot of carbon intensive work to other countries, and our government then patronises these same countries at international conferences – should be supplemented with the recognition of historic responsibility.

Estimates of the scale of this vary, but there should be no ducking the debt that developed, wealthy countries accrued by becoming developed and wealthy on the back of massive fossil fuel use and colonial exploitation of the rest of the world; and the scale of the investment needed to make recompense for it. $4 trillion a year according to Adam Tooze.

In this context, the main threat in the current situation is that the “developed countries”, Global North, “West”, G7, call them what you like, set themselves up as greenish gated communities trying to quarantine the impact of climate breakdown into the Global South, building walls and policing moats to keep the refugees out and militarising their societies in order to enforce it. The current dramatic increases in arms spending by these countries, including the UK – which could be used instead for global green transition – are a sign that they are preparing to manage the breakdown, not avert it; which makes opposition to this militarisation drive a key task for the climate movement.

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