A bill before parliament to preserve nature and keep global temperature increase below 1.5C

A delegation of MPs and scientists representing an alliance of organisations, scientists, and individuals (Zero Hour), will today deliver an open letter to the UK prime minister calling for the government to push for three essential outcomes from COP26, which takes place in Glasgow at the end of this month, and the biodiversity summit (COP15), which takes place in China in 2022.

The “Zero Hour” Alliance campaign’s three COP outcomes are key elements of a Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill currently scheduled for its second reading in Parliament on 29 October 2021. The bill, which has been endorsed by a number health organisations, including the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, provides a framework of overarching policy imperatives that address the UK’s responsibility to reduce emissions and global ecological footprint urgently and fairly.

It represents the only legislation currently before the UK Parliament that presents an approach for tackling our current climate and nature emergency. It does this by setting climate and nature targets that require the government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a rate consistent with limiting temperature increase to 1.5C. It also requires a commitment to halt and reverse the UK’s global contribution to the loss of nature through the creation of a climate and nature strategy that incorporates the UK’s emissions based on the complete cycle of its consumption including aviation, shipping, land-based transport, manufacture and disposal of goods. This is important, as it recognises the need to focus much wider than our domestic consumption and take responsibility for the UK’s entire greenhouse gas carbon footprint, much of which takes place beyond UK borders.

The bill requires this strategy to be developed and delivered fairly with an approach that involves a citizens’ assembly representative of the whole population.

The bill aligns closely with the urgent actions recently highlighted by the global health community in an editorial published in 200+ international journals which called for emergency action to cut emissions, restore nature, protect health, and support developing countries. The key messages outlined in the editorial have been further strengthened by a letter coordinated by the health community and signed by individuals and organisations representing about 45 million healthcare professionals globally. This letter, which is targeted at Heads of State and climate negotiators attending COP26 in Glasgow next week, calls for a global commitment and approach to limiting global warming fairly and equitably with higher income countries making larger cuts to emissions and transferring funds to support lower income nations to achieve their targets.

Laurie Laybourn-Langton, a former director of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, is one of the lead editors on the editorial and led the coordinated action to publish across multiple international journals. “As we approach COP26 in Glasgow next month, it has been encouraging to hear many governments talking about targets and actions to reduce emissions to protect nature. However, promises are not enough—we have learned from past experience that targets can be easy to set but difficult to achieve. We need to see ambitious but credible strategies and plans that will deliver the targets we set to achieve,” he said.

“In the editorial we say that global targets are not enough. Insufficient action to date means that temperature increases are currently on a trajectory to be well in excess of 2C, which would be catastrophic for health and environmental stability. Critically, the destruction of nature does not have parity of esteem with the climate element of the crisis, and every single global target to restore biodiversity loss by 2020 was missed.”

The CEE Bill addresses some of the concerns raised in the editorial by establishing a climate and nature strategy that will deliver the targets to reduce greenhouse emissions in a fair process that ensures more vulnerable communities are positively impacted and supported. Approval of the Bill through Parliament would place a legal obligation on our government to deliver this strategy and much needed accountability to deliver the targets we set out and agree to deliver at COP26.

The three COP outcomes campaign focuses on three specific commitments from COP26:

  1. Creation of a joint emergency strategy for climate and nature
  2. Commitment to the carbon budget for 1.5C
  3. Going nature positive by 2030

Support for the CEE Bill and three COP Outcomes campaigns by the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change is further evidence that the global health community are determined to ensure their voice is heard in the need for meaningful action on climate change for the benefit of all our health.

The more people that get behind these movements, the more our impact will be felt. The onus is on every one of us to play our part.

Further information:

Elaine Mulcahy, Director of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change.

Competing interests: none declared.