Climate and Ecology Bill Event

The Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (CEE Bill) would “set an emergency path for the UK to follow” and allow it to play a “fair and proper role in limiting global temperatures to 1.5°C and restoring the natural world”. Yesterday, I took part in Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas’s debate on the Climate and Ecological Emergency in the UK, and you can listen to my contribution here and read the Hansard record here.

It was a fantastic opportunity to raise some of the themes that had emerged from a CEE Bill Alliance panel I had participated in previously, where I spoke about why the Liberal Democrats are supporting this vital piece of legislation. Alongside Lord Jonny Oates, our Spokesperson for Energy and Climate Change in the Lords, Cllr Jackie Hook, Executive Member for Climate Change on Teignbridge District Council and Sarah Lunnon, CEE Bill Alliance Coordinator, I discussed why the CEE Bill is such a key part of our future.

With transport mostly ground to a halt thanks to coronavirus, it would be easy to think that our impact on the environment has significantly reduced. Therefore we can bump the climate emergency down the list of priorities. However, to do so would waste an opportunity to capitalise on people’s changing daily habits and the shift in this Government’s attitude towards spending. Now is the time to act. While the rollout of the vaccine signals the beginning of the end of this pandemic, a period of economic dislocation is yet to come. In this year, we must use the opportunity—the year of two crucial UN summits, COP15 and COP26—to pressure the Government for the action we need to see.

Before the #CEELibDems Q&A, I thought that the main barrier to reaching Net Zero and tackling the ecological emergency was the dispersed division of responsibility across departments. I strongly believe that there needs to be a single department and cabinet minister responsible for coordinating the Government’s approach to tackling the diverse climate-nature emergency elements. For this reason, one of the most significant achievements of the CEE Bill is its consideration of the climate and ecological emergencies in a holistic manner. We cannot afford to have a siloed approach.

However, the event also prompted me to consider the importance of engaging the public about the climate emergency at all governance levels. There is now widespread consensus across the political spectrum that urgent action is required: I want to see the Government-run a major public information campaign as soon as the virus begins to ease off. Given that we have spent the best part of a year thinking about how our behaviour affects other people’s health, the Government must now highlight how our behaviour impacts the environment. Community leaders, including myself, can use their role to show people the changes they can make in their everyday lives that make a transformational difference.

But of course, it is not just about individual changes. Far more important are the changes required by governments. The Government must create a clear action plan for achieving their stated targets, and the CEE Bill is a key step towards this. But we must go further. And much faster. Liberal Democrats believe that the goal of Net Zero 2050 is not soon enough. Still, regardless, we are not currently even on course to meet the 80% reduction in carbon emissions originally in the 2008 Climate Change Act. With my colleagues in Parliament, and in local authorities across the country, we will continue to raise the climate-nature emergency at every opportunity. Those outside Parliament can engage a wide range of people in their community, from XR groups, businesses to religious groups and Women’s Institutes, to encourage them to pressure their MP and local councillors to support the CEE Bill. Change is happening, but it often takes time, so we must be proactive and persistent.

The 2008 Climate Change Act, which was the most radical piece of climate legislation in the UK, started its life as a presentation bill in 2005. By working together, inside and outside of Westminster, the CEE Bill can positively impact this Government’s climate policy.

For further details about the CEE Bill, visit and to watch the #CEELibDems Q&A event, click here.


* Sarah Olney is the MP for Richmond Park. She joined the Liberal Democrats in 2015 and won a spectacular victory in the Richmond Park by-election in December 2016. She lost the seat by a heartbreaking 45 votes in the 2017 General Election, but then regained it resoundingly at the 2019 General Election.

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This entry was posted in News and Op-eds.


  • What climate emergency is that? Please define what you understand the word, “emergency” to mean and then explain why we have a climate emergency. Who is qualified to announce this emergency on behalf of our nation, the editor of the Guardian?

  • Peter Hirst 11th Feb '21 - 4:45pm

    The government’s main failing is with insulating our housing stock. Presumably the contribution to domestic heating has increased with the endemic. Also the failure to deliver strict building codes for insulation for new build.

  • @”Peter”:
    Official Definition Of Climate Emergency
    According to Oxford Dictionaries, climate emergency can be defined as . Moreover, is another definition of climate emergency offered by the Cambridge Dictionary.

    Hope that answers your question.

  • suzanne Fletcher 11th Feb '21 - 8:48pm

    In my mind emergency is what is happening right now in different parts of the world. In extreme people are losing lives with drought, intense heat and flooding. Then there are those that are losing homes, livelyhood.
    some crops are not succeeding as the climate changes and timing of seasons changes. As there is too much or too little rain, or sun.
    If that were happening to me, my family, my community – I would hope the rest of the world would take action to stop the climate change.
    As for the rest of the world, it might not have much impact at this minute, warmer summer, occasional downpour and flooding here and there, but it will get worse.
    The viurs as we all know is no respecter of boundaries. Nor is climate change.

  • Stephen Hesketh 12th Feb '21 - 7:19am

    ‘Peter’, I am not surprised you don’t give your full or real name. ‘Donald’ might have been a more appropriate choice. You’re welcome.

  • Peter Not sure where you live or how much time you spend actually looking around you. Anyone with good observational skills will recognise that the world we are living in is becoming more and more difficult for thousands of people. The natural world is our life support system. we depend on it for the air we breathe the water we drink and the food we eat. For years we have treated the natural world as if it was a bottomless bank account, taking out, but putting very little in. Now it has been realised that we have gone too far, Unless rapid and extensive steps are taken we will very soon reach a point when human life will struggle and could well lose the ability to survive. Now if you think that the survival of the human race is NOT an emergency – then you are entitled to your opinion of course, but what would you say to those who are already suffering drought, floods, ruined crops, devastated land, shattered houses ? And how will you feel when it starts to impact on you and your family? And believe me – it WILL

  • @Anna Beria – I’m sorry, Anna, I could not make sense of your reply. I based my challenge on the fact that global temperatures are well within natural temperature variability. For example, temperatures were about two degrees Celsius higher during the Medieval Warm Period and the Roman warm Period.
    @suzanne Fletcher – There have been extremely frequent claims of extreme weather. Most of these are fake. All governments have been monitoring such events for many years and the data is readily available in the public domain. Climate models predict more extreme weather but in fact the reverse seems to be the reality. Global violent weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes have been in decline. Floods and draughts show no trend. Wildfires are decreasing. Sea levels continue to rise at 2.9 mm per year as it has done for decades since we started warming from the Little Ice Age.
    Deaths from climate events have plummeted in recent years. Food production is at record levels due to high yields benefiting from the higher carbon dioxide levels. Carbon dioxide is the essential raw material for photosynthesis which turns carbon dioxide into sugars which then form carbohydrates.
    In fact in 1900 the atmospheric CO2 level was only 300 ppm which is dangerously close to the mass extinction limit of 150 ppm when all life on this planet will cease.
    These are the facts. There is no climate emergency and in my opinion it is disgraceful to seek to alarm the public with false claims.
    @Stephen Hesketh – Forgive me, but I deal in scientific facts, not veiled insults.

  • Peter Martin 13th Feb '21 - 1:57pm

    @ Peter,

    “….. but I deal in scientific facts”

    Do you? What about the ‘scientific fact’ that the surface of Venus (with lots of CO2 in the atmosphere) is much hotter than the surface of Mercury even though it is further away from the sun? I keep asking you about that and you don’t come up with any answer!

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