Layla Moran writes …Tackling the environmental crisis from the bottom up

Each week, LDV invites the leadership candidates to write a post for us. This is Layla’s post for this week. 

The climate and nature emergencies are the greatest threats our country – and humankind – face. Climate change is not under control. Worldwide, deforestation and the destruction of habitats continue at a terrifying rate, with catastrophic impacts on wildlife.

This is why, alongside the economy and education, I’ve made the environment one of my campaign themes. My ambition as leader is to make our Liberal voice heard clearly on the environment and to recapture our position as the most innovative and credible party on environmental policy. In turn, this will enable us to build coalitions for action, and to attract support from Labour, Green and Tory voters concerned about the threat to the environment.

Several of the key actions have to be taken by the government. This includes accelerating investment in renewable power, an emergency programme of energy efficiency retrofits for homes, converting the natural gas network to hydrogen, investing in public transport, speeding up the transition to electric vehicles and creating incentives to expand ‘carbon sinks’ through planting trees, restoring peatlands and supporting innovation in carbon dioxide removal technologies. If we move fast enough on all these fronts, we can put the UK on a path not just to net-zero but to net negative emissions.

But government – particularly central government – can’t do it all by itself. They have to take the public with them – which means stressing that tackling the climate and nature emergencies is a shared effort, in which everyone – individuals, households, communities, businesses, investors, farmers, teachers, scientists, engineers, local and national government – has a role to play.

Our message, the Liberal message of shared responsibility, means starting at the bottom, with individuals and their families and communities. It begins with education, where environmental topics should be included throughout the curriculum. We should create citizens’ assemblies, at national and local levels, to engage the public in the debates around options.

It means creating incentives that reward people for changing their patterns of living, working, travelling and eating, providing advice and support for actions that make greener lives cheaper and easier. For example, I’ve argued for a scrappage scheme for the oldest petrol and diesel cars in exchange for a voucher to be spent on electric vehicles or bicycles, alongside cutting VAT on EVs.

It means being serious about supporting a just transition for people working in industries and areas that are dependent on oil and gas – like the North East of Scotland, or people working for airlines and airports. We should be convening businesses, communities and trade unions to plan for reskilling and investments in new zero-carbon industries and jobs.

It means establishing a framework for local authorities to agree on local zero-carbon and nature strategies, and devolving powers and resources to them to deliver housing, planning, energy, transport, nature and land use policies that meet these aims. The pandemic and the lockdown have shown how much better local councils are than central government in responding to local needs and priorities.

It means legislating to place an obligation on companies to exercise a duty of care for the environment throughout their operations and supply chains – a ‘due diligence requirement,’ for example, that food companies don’t source cocoa or palm oil associated with deforestation.

It means restructuring national government to ensure that environmental priorities are always given priority in decision-making. That’s why I support the proposals in the Build Back Better booklet I published recently to break up the Treasury and establish a new Department of Sustainability as the principal government department, alongside a raft of other proposals to put the environment at the heart of government.

And finally, it means working together with our neighbours abroad to tackle the climate and nature emergencies. This means, primarily, the EU. The UK should cooperate in building a North Sea grid of electricity interconnectors, support the EU in international negotiations, join the EU Emission Trading System and fulfil its climate commitments jointly with the EU and its member states.

I believe people will respond to this message of facing up together to the climate and nature emergencies, through creating a framework in which everyone shares their responsibilities and plays their part.


* Layla Moran is the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Deforestation and the destruction of habitats is indeed a very serious problem, but there are other, more direct threats to wildlife such as hunting of rare species, killing for ivory, and the like.

    There are also very serious environmental problems such as pollution by plastic, effluent discharge to rivers, (sewage discharge to rivers in the UK) and numerous other problems.

    There is no climate emergency. This is confirmed by the IPCC and numerous environmental experts. Extreme weather is not getting more intense or more frequent as shown by official data. Activists such as Extinction Rebellion created this myth because as anarchists, they wish to destroy capitalism, industry and our way of life, and they have successfully conned well meaning people into supporting them.

    Serious and responsible environmentalists such as Graham Moore, Michael Schellenberger and Bjorn Lomborg are now concerned that climate alarmism is causing a generation of people to be misled and our children scared by lies.

  • richard underhill. 13th Aug '20 - 11:39pm

    Layla Moran MP | Thu 13th August 2020 – 5:28 pm
    This is no better than the previous leader, and she lost her seat.
    If you want to plant a tree you should specify which tree.
    Some trees grow faster than other trees. If you want a carbon sink you should know this.
    Try reading the history of the Forestry Commission, what it did and why, including the regional effects and consider the supply of water. perhaps drawing from Israeli technology.

  • Matt Wardman 14th Aug '20 - 6:44am

    I can’t help wondering whether this “convert the natural gas network to hydrogen” idea is going to blow up in someone’s face.

  • Jenny Barnes 14th Aug '20 - 6:49am

    We could do with interconnectors to N Africa to pick up solar power in quantity.

  • The fundamental problem with the planet is too many people but that is so ill-liberal a thought that it is never mentioned.

    Having a highly intrusive corp of local council employees demanding this and that of householders is unlikely to be popular, already there is the requirement for council inspection if you dare change a window yourself and latterly the need to have insulation directly under a new roof – sneaked into law somehow – even if you already have a metre of insulation in the attic. Both pointless intrusions.

    At the other end, low energy users are clobbered by standing charges, almost encouraging people to use an excess and mandating the installation of smart meters that run backwards when solar panels are installed is beyond the ken of politicians. Not to mention the ploy of encouraging people NOT to use any hot water, fantastic health benefits from starting the day with an ice cold shower.

  • I don’t know who drafted this article for Ms Moran……. and I’ve no problem with the issues raised….. but it’s already happening throughout Scotland thank you very much.

  • neil sandison 14th Aug '20 - 10:54am

    Well done Layla you have picked up on some key issues here .like to hear more regarding your support for the circular economy .For example “there is no such thing as waste just resources in the wrong place ” . often stated at waste and recycling management trade conferences . but of course local government will need the financial resources to gear up to tackle some of these problems and should be where a carbon or pollution reduction tax comes in to encourage investment and innovation .lets here some more .

  • Laurence Cox 14th Aug '20 - 11:42am

    The trouble with statements like If we move fast enough on all these fronts, we can put the UK on a path not just to net-zero but to net negative emissions. is that it is just politician-speak. Once you have got to net zero, then planting just one extra tree gets you to net negative emissions, but I doubt that anyone would consider that sufficient.

    What we need is a commitment not just to stabilise world CO2 levels by 2050 but to set a further long-term goal to get it back to the levels of around 1960 (the first CO2 measurement at Mauna Loa was 315 ppm in 1958). If we could go from that level to the present level 100 ppm higher in just over 60 years, then setting a target to get it back down again in, say, 100 years from what would then become the peak level in 2050 seems quite reasonable. The importance of setting such a goal is that it means that countries have to commit to removing from the atmosphere their CO2 emissions in the past, not just stopping emissions in the future. Because Britain was first into the Industrial Revolution, it is our responsibility to lead here.

    Population growth, which also took off at about the same time in the middle of the 20th Century, is already starting to slow; this article in ‘The Lancet’ shows a rather lower median prediction for 2100 (8.8 billion) compared with the UNPD prediction (10.9 billion) of less than a decade ago:

    The article, incidentally, makes the point that investing in girls’ education is the most effective means of reducing population growth in countries that still have above-replacement fertility levels. Here is a lesson for us in directing our overseas aid budget.

  • David Evershed 14th Aug '20 - 2:54pm


    HS2 is cutting a swathe through the countryside of Buckinghamshire, Northamtonshire and Warwickshire, including ancient woodlands.

    Working from home during the coronavirus outbreak has shown how much less travel is needed than that used to justify HS2.

    What is your policy on halting HS2 and putting the £100bn investment to projects with a stronger business case?

  • To add to Mr Evershed’s question to Ms Moran, Could I ask what her positionis on renewing Trident and retaining an ‘Independent Nuclear Deterrent …… and like Ms Swinson would she give a simple ‘Yes’ to its use if she felt it necessary ?

  • neil sandison 15th Aug '20 - 9:03am

    Can members read the article in full .I count 8 key policy positions on the environment . it may not tick every box or personal pet project members support but it does recognise that without the support of local communities and local councils little progress will be made and what is wrong with enabling and empowering local communities to drive the climate emergency agenda and transition their cities ,towns and villages with local solutions one size does not fit all.

  • When is an emergency an emergency? When everyone is talking about it. We seem to think we can solve climate change while continuing our lives as usual. Of course emergencies that last years, as this one will are challenging to manage. There should be a distinct syllabus on climate change from the first year in primary school as well as integrating it into all the other subjects.

  • Bill Mackintosh 16th Aug '20 - 9:51am

    I was interested to read the comments by a someone who denies current climate change issues. Protection of wildlife is fundamental. Part of the effort must be to reduce pollution and global heating. Layla has outlined many of these. More work is needed. If she is leader, I hope the Party will focus strongly on practical measures. People will probably have choices – electric or hydrogen fuel for transport. The sooner diesel for cars goes the better.

  • Peter Hirst 16th Aug '20 - 2:10pm

    I like the mention of net negative emissions. We need to get beyond zero. We have emitted more than our fair share and should allow other countries to develop. Net zero is no longer sufficient.

  • David Garlick 16th Aug '20 - 5:52pm

    It never ceases to amaze me that some of the regular contributors to this website are negative and I can only say not interested in dialogue with no appetite move from entrenched positions normally associated with right wing politicians and some right wing extremists.
    Believe the scientists, believe the extreme weather events, believe the loss of biodiversity, wake up and, sorry to use this, and smell the coffee. Well said Layla. It is nor the finished polished policy explanation but it hits all the right areas and is very welcome.

  • David Garlick 16th Aug '20 - 5:54pm

    Read the book Wilding from Isabel Tree explaining the work done on the Knepp Estate.

  • richard underhill. 19th Aug '20 - 5:25pm

    13th Aug ’20 – 11:39pm
    please also consider the use of grey water in the construction of the many new houses which are happening currently.

  • As Layla mentioned in her “job interview” hustings, the policy of net zero by 2045 went down like a lead balloon at the GE. That was because it sounded bureaucractic and because it was “outbid” by Labour and the Greens, who promised something faster. What Labour proposed was of course rejected as unaffordable nonsense by many voters. But it thrilled the green enthusiasts, and took their votes away from the Lib Dems.

    Layla talks a lot of detailed sense, but it isn’t obvious that much of it will sound particularly original. So it may not get that magic “cut-through”!

    My suggestion is to get away from all this “net zero by 20xx” malarkey, which is basically a climate denialist’s dodge to avoid doing anything too serious NOW! Instead, we should be talking about what we want to do immediately, what we want to do over the next Parliament, etcetera. 2045 is too late!

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