Fighting a losing battle: why Lib Dems should back the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill

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On Wednesday, Caroline Lucas, the sole Green Party MP at Westminster, did what she does best. She tabled a private members bill.

The Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill would mandate that the UK:

  • goes further in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reflecting our historic emissions and relative capacity to rapidly decarbonise;
  • takes steps to protect and restore biodiversity and soil;
  • accounts for overseas activity (e.g. in supply chains) in emissions accounting;
  • acts on the basis of currently available technology, rather than hypothetical future solutions;
  • establishes a citizen’s assembly to build consensus around specific policy actions.

These provisions are the price we must pay if we are to bear our full responsibility for the climate change. We cannot rely on sci-fi ideas which may never be realised, or ask those least responsible to bear the greatest burden. We may have devoted little attention to biodiversity, habitats and soil in the past, but these have profound importance, supporting food chains and acting as carbon sinks, not to mention being intrinsically valuable.

Even the citizen’s assembly, which I am temperamentally averse to as it allows government to abdicate their responsibility to lead, here serves only an advisory function, helping to build consensus without the usual risks of direct democracy.

There’s much to support and little to criticise.

To be clear, the bill will fail. Without government support most private members bills do. Even if the government decided that the bill perfectly matches its policy aims, it wouldn’t give Caroline Lucas the PR boost of supporting this bill.

But sometimes, it’s not winning that matters; it’s fighting the battle, and being seen to do so. The Lib Dems should be unequivocal in joining this fight.

At the time of writing, four of our MPs have already signed on to the bill. But that means nearly two thirds of our MPs haven’t. We can and should do better.  We should be vehement in our support of the bill. Lib Dem Lords should build support for these ambitions in the upper house. Local activists should back the bill in Focuses.

Because that’s the right thing to do.

Because climate change is the defining issue of the next thirty years (and indeed the last 30, though we seem not to have noticed).

Because the Lib Dems must care about more than just our relationship with the EU if we are to survive.

Because the more voices support this bill, the better the odds that we can make progress. Not with this bill, maybe not with this government, but soon – perhaps at next year’s UN climate conference in Glasgow.

There are times when the Lib Dems must compete with other small parties. This isn’t one of those times.


* Jack Fleming is a Liberal Democrat member and activist based in London. He blogs at

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Sorry, I am not convinced by your rhetoric.

  • richard underhill.,. 4th Sep '20 - 9:13pm

    Does it explain that coffee grouts are available for free from coffee shops, and in the recent past, from Waitrose to help Gardeners’ World viewers deal with slugs and snails?

  • Sorry, have I missed something here?

    Jack, the writer, and the two commenters appear to take the view that the Lib Dems, or at least the majority, are against, or not supportive of, this bill. Is this so, and if so, why on earth should that be?

    I would have thought that the 5 points Jack quotes as issues addressed by the bill would be squarely in the middle of Lib Dem thinking. Is there more to the bill which we oppose?

  • Jack Fleming 5th Sep '20 - 7:51am

    @Pete, I’m much less interested in the quality of my rhetoric, and more interested in the merits of the policy and, crucially, the politics of backing a private members bill which will undoubtedly fail.

    @Tim13, I would not take the view that the majority of members will be opposed to the bill (I would hope you are right that it sits squarely in the middle of our thinking), but rather that most will see this specific bill as not worth fighting for, given that it is doomed to failure. My point is that, rather than gently supporting the bill, but without much passion, we should throw everything into this fight.

  • Jack Fleming 5th Sep '20 - 7:56am

    Anyone who wants to can sign up to support the bill here, and of course as with all such issues, please write to your MP, asking them to back it.

  • Just a load of noise and nonsense to keep the ever expanding political class in easy money, why not address the fundamental problem of massive overpopulation of the Earth, as well as far too many people crammed into the UK (both helping things like Covid spread like wildfire)? The is the core of the problem with the LibDem’s still promoting huge families via welfare reform and even more immigration via easy borders.

  • What’s your proposal, then Frank West – war and more war? Bring back massive predators?

    We are where we are, and we need a world community that works together. And sorry you may also need politicians to collate views in a democratic fashion mand coordinate liberal action. You seem to be advocating turning the clock back 100 years or more.

  • Tim, your comment has much unintended truth. Climate change is not really about the science or the climate. It is driven by financial and political groups each with their own agendas. The UN has a long standing ambition to establish world governance with powers of taxation and control of certain policies. Climate change is the chosen vehicle and is already at the centre of global wealth distribution via green taxation of the wealthier nations.

    Extreme left wing organisations wish to destroy capitalism in the name of saving the planet. Green policies are already beginning to wreck the economies of Germany, South Australia, California and the UK where soaring energy costs and green taxation are making industry uncompetitive and destroying energy intensive manufacturing. The ongoing destabilisation of the grid through the use of unreliable energy id driving us towards blackouts, fuel poverty and increased winter deaths amongst the poorest. We truly are being driven back 100 years or more.

  • The bill should be supported, but it won’t be. Global warming and the associated consequences have been known about for at least 50 years if not more and not just by scientist’s in their ivory tower’s, I was taught about this in school at age 12. Green Peace and Friends O The Earth have been banging on about this since the dawn of time, governments of all colours have known and done effectively nothing, we know the answer, we could have acted but instead we collectively filed the proble under ‘too hard’ and now it’s too late. Warming will rise above 2.5 degrees and for once the use of the word catastrophic will be an understatement. Even now government’s around the world stare transfixed at the oncoming storm and do, very little really.
    The bill will fail, similar bills in other countries will fail because the actions necessary to prevent what’s coming are electoral suicide, and the population as a whole don’t want to give up their current life style, if anything most people want to improve their quality of life.
    So if you have children under 40 give them a hug, apologise and beg them not to have any children, or any more children, of their own, they really don’t deserve what’s coming, but, it is in fact way too late and the human race is way too selfish, then again maybe we do deserve what’s coming.

  • Much depends on firstly, whether the LibDems want to be taken seriously on their green agenda and being different to the establishment parties – Labour and the Conservatives and secondly, whether they are able to play the Westminster game.
    It seems obvious that the LibDems should wholeheartly and publicly support this bill, knowing that if it gets through then time will be made available to debate the issues the bill aims to address; bill gets voted down and its business as usual for the dinosaurs, who are in total denial about the fact the world has changed… Hence why they allowed HS2 to go ahead, exalt people to return to office working, want people to resume international (air) travel etc.

  • A party that supports HS2 has no claim to green credentials.

  • Tynan, you really shouldn’t frighten people with complete garbage. Unfortunately, some people believe all the nonsense churned out by irresponsible groups like XR and it worries them sick.

    The reality is that if CO2 doubled it would, at most, produce around 1.2 degrees of warming and after that, any further doubling (which is not going to happen anyway) would give negligible warming.

  • @David Raw – You are right, even the parts of the line buried in tunnels will have shafts or portals every 3km. Portal construction creates a huge area of environmental devastation which means that virtually the entire tunnel length will look like a disaster area. The digging and spoil removal will blight the whole area for years. The public is conned by allowing them to think that tunnels hide the problem.

    Climate change is nothing compared to ocean pollution, large scale geoengineering projects and future disasters in the making. For example, solar panels are full of highly toxic chemicals encased in glass. There is currently no plan to deal with the looming disaster when panels reach the end of their useful lives (20-25 years) The first generation is there now. They will probably be dumped in land fill where the glass will shatter and rain will leach out the chemicals.

    Climate change has made a great many people rich which is why alarmism is maintained at a high level. By the way, did you switch your central heating on this week?

  • neil sandison 5th Sep '20 - 7:37pm

    The Bill should be supported for sound tactical reasons and because the pace of change is moving in our direction .The circular economy is now progressing with many new innovative industries emerging .fossil fuel producers and suppliers are changing tack .We have stated we want to work with fellow progressives on single issues lets prove it .
    We can also amend if we believe we can enhance the bill at committee stage .

  • @Pete. Time will tell, and as you feel that there is no need to worry perhaps you have time to read ‘ The Uninhabitable Earth’ by David Wallace-Wells, or ‘Hot House Earth’ by Will Steven et al. If you feel that their statements and conclusion are alarmist, as I did, read their very well referenced source material.
    I would posit that any one who reads this and isn’t frightened hasn’t understood, even the best case scenario is bad with temperature rises impacting sea level, food production, and increased mass migration, the worst case scenario, whilst granted is not certain, is very bad. Not to be alarmed is not to think about the problem, not to think about the problem is not give up all hope of a solution.
    In 2016 the Paris accords established a set of international commitments and actions aimed at keeping the increase in average global warming to two degrees centigrade, this in itself would not be without consequences. Not one country is on track to meet those commitments and America has pulled out all together. Part of the problem is the numbers of people who have ‘acclimitised’ to to the changes we have already seen, and are content for certain lowland areas to be flooded so long as that means they can continue their current lifestyle, it doesn’t and they can’t but sadly they will, the necessary changes are too hard.

  • That should read, ‘not to think about the problem is to give up all hope of a solution’.

  • @Tynan I have kept up to date on the latest academic articles and peer reviewed papers on a regular basis for well over a decade. Alarmism is still strongly represented but it is clear that the solid science is showing that the climate models are not fit for purpose, much of the warming last century was due to reduced cloud cover and that currently, the oceans are showing cooling.

  • Tynan, I don’t know where you get your misinformation but it does not serve you well. Sea levels have been rising at a modest 3 mm per year for many decades and are not accelerating. Food production is at record levels worldwide due to the increased atmospheric carbon dioxide. To save you time, I should point out that Typhoons, hurricanes and other violent weather events are at the lowest frequencies for decades. Wildfires are at 25% of traditional levels. Floods are very variable with no significant trend.

    Even ER withdrew their claim about “climate migration” just a few days ago because there was no evidence to support it.

  • @Pete, I have in fact referenced two sources of information which as I said both give extensive reference to their source information and data, amongst which are reports by the national acadamy of sciences, athe American meteorological society, the IPPC and the U.N. to name but a few.
    So no need to worry re lack of action following Paris accords then?
    FYI I have no truck with XR, I would happily see their activists jailed for their ‘protests’ and the organisation banned.
    I used to argue as you do Pete, I really did, various reports and publications over the last few years have led me to change my mind. As I said time will tell on this one.

  • I have followed up on your two references. They do take extreme scenarios which most scientists believe are highly unlikely.

  • @Pete, good for you, though if you have actually read them both in the time elapsed I am genuinely impressed.
    Both authors actually discuss best and worst case scenarios throughout and make clear that the actual outcome depends largely on what action various governments may or may not take. You seem to think I tend towards the more extreme views of what may happen, I don’t and I actually agree with your comments on the pollution of the oceans, and of the dangers inherent in the leakage of chemicals from solar panels. Given your clear passion and interest in reading around this subject, may I reccommend another read ?
    ‘The Scientific Consensus On Climate Change: How Do We Know We Are Not Wrong?’ by N. Oreskes, 2018.
    Whilst it has been fun posting with you we could argue until the cows come home and I don’t think either of us would convince the other to change there opinion by much if at all. If you are right all will be well even if governments don’t take any significant action to prevent the worst consequences of global warming, if I’m right then things will become less well by the latter half of this century. It’s been fun though!

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