Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
Thank you for contacting me about the Report Stage of the Environment Bill. I apologise for the delay in responding to your email. As you can imagine, I have received a huge increase in casework as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
In June, Boris Johnson said that his government will “build back better” and “build back greener”, but the Tories’ previous track record demonstrates very little desire to put environmental issues at the heart of the government’s agenda.
Whilst the Environment Bill should have represented an opportunity for the government to firmly commit to a bold domestic strategy on climate change, the Environment Bill does not come close to the urgent and decisive action that is so desperately needed.
Boris Johnson’s government is doing all it can to resist concrete protections, leaving our environment and ultimately the climate as a bargaining chip for new trade agreements that would undercut Britain’s environmental standards. The Environment Bill does little to help, replacing the EU’s comprehensive framework of environmental protections with four simple long-term targets over which the government has nearly complete discretion to change at any time.
I was proud to stand on a bold and radical plan to tackle the climate crisis in the 2019 General Election. It is bitterly disappointing that Labour cannot enact this vision in government. I have spoken out about the urgent action that is required when it comes to climate change over the past 15 years as an MP. And whilst this government continues to ignore the seriousness of the climate crisis, I will continue to do so.
Having seen first-hand the role that the UK can play in leading a global strategy to tackle climate change when I attended COP 15 in Copenhagen back in 2009, I am disappointed that the government are failing to take the opportunity it has to show real global leadership in tackling the climate crisis, especially as we approach COP 26, which the UK is hosting in Glasgow later this year.
As you know, the Report Stage of the Environment Bill took place in the House of Commons in January. Labour had tabled amendments to the Environment Bill maintaining the ban on bee-killing pesticides, ensuring the independence of the proposed environmental watchdog and enforcing stricter air quality targets by 2030. Regrettably, the government rejected these amendments and announced a pause to the Report Stage. This means that some amendments to the Environment Bill will not be debated by MPs until May, with the legislation unlikely to pass until at least the autumn.
As Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, Luke Pollard, said:
“We could be waiting over six months more for an environmental watchdog, for powers to stop our children breathing unsafe air, and to regulate ministers’ actions… This simply isn’t good enough.
“What a terrible message to send to the world in the year we’re hosting COP 26. This was supposed to be in law before Britain left the Brexit transition period and it’s not. It was supposed to be bold and world leading because of the urgency of the climate crisis and it’s not.
“But this is a go-slow government when it comes to environmental action. If you could solve the climate crisis with press releases, then the planet would have nothing to worry about – but it is actions, not words, that we need.”
You can be assured that we will continue to push for bold action on environmental issues in the Labour Party as the Environment Bill continues its journey through Parliament.
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with me about this important issue. If you have any further points you would like to raise, please do not hesitate to get back in touch.
The Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP
Islington South and Finsbury
Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade