Feature: The activists who have turned to politics to protect the planet

Environment Journal talks to the people behind the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill to hear about their journey, their aims and the struggles of getting the Bill passed. 

In August 2020, a group of scientists, academics, lawyers and environmentalists came together to work out how they could ensure that the UK government would play its fair and proper share in limiting global warming while also actively conserving the natural world.

After some lengthy discussions, this group of activists formed the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Alliance and began drafting the CEE Bill, with an aim to provide politicians with a clear legal framework that is based on the scientific reality.

Just one month after the private member’s bill was drafted, Green Party leader Caroline Lucas tabled it in parliament. But the process of making this Bill a legal reality is still far away. To understand the challenges and the work that has been done to get them where they are, Environment Journal got in touch with the people who are working hard behind the scenes.

Dr Amy McDonnell, who co-founded the CEE Alliance, told Environment Journal about the starting point: ‘As a coalition of activists we came together with an aim to fill the holes in the climate movement, and we quickly decided that the most logical step was to work within parliament while also maintaining a strong grassroots campaign that we can use to really hold MP’s feet to the fire.

‘Scientists and experts have known for ages what we can do to mitigate the climate and ecological crisis, we’re not lacking in ideas, we’re lacking in political will.

‘So with this Bill, we are not trying to come up with the policy asks, we are saying that we need to create an emergency strategy and we need to do this within the bounds of international fairness. We want the government to recognise that the UK emits 40% of its carbon emissions oversea, and we want them to take the responsibility for the damage we are causing along our supply chains.

‘We are not just an island.’

As mentioned by Amy, as well as taking their Bill to parliament, the CEE Alliance is focusing heavily on grassroots mobilisation, which they hope will enable them to raise awareness of what they are fighting for.

They are hosting various debates and discussions across the country, and during the pandemic, they are hosting various online events. As stated by Amy, ‘This is a giant public environmental educational programme.’

According to Ron Bailey, who has played an active role in helping to steer over 25 different pieces of legislation through Parliament, including the Climate Change Act and who is now helping the CEE Alliance:  ‘My previous experience has shown me that public sympathy is absolutely crucial.’

To achieve this public sympathy, not only are the CEE Alliance working with local people, but they are also working with parish and local councils in a bid to gain their support.

‘There are around 1,500 parish councils, so if we can get their support then it’s absolutely huge.

‘We also know that over 200 councils have declared a climate emergency, so naturally, we hope that they will be on board with what we are trying to achieve.’

Nessy Haines-Matos, campaign coordinator for the CEE Bill Alliance added: ‘We are aiming to use this Bill as a parliamentary tool to enable us to have in-depth conversations with MPs in order to build support. We are really just translating what some of the best scientists and economists of our time are telling us and translating that into legal language and a Bill framework.

‘In March there will be the second reading of the Bill, but again this is just parliamentary procedure, we know that it won’t be debated and nothing will really happen, so that’s why we’re going out to the public to hold debates and conversations.

‘If they won’t debate it in parliament, then we’ll debate it ourselves.’

‘Climate activists have done an amazing job in opening up this conversation both culturally and in the media, it’s now our job to actually do something with that space.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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