Following its passage through the House of Commons, the Environment Bill 2021-22 has now completed its second reading, committee stage, report stage and third reading in the House of Lords. This paper is a summary of what happened in those House of Lords stages and about how the Bill has changed.
The Climate and Ecology Bill 2019-21 was presented by Caroline Lucas as a Private Members Bill (Presentation Bill) on 2 September 2020. It was originally tabled for second reading on 12 March 2021. However, sittings for Private Members Bills have been suspended until further notice due to current pressure on Parliamentary time. Only a very small number of Private Member’s Bills ever become law, and they are usually those that have Government support.
Climate and Ecological Emergency Campaign
The Bill originates from a campaign by the climate change campaign movement Extinction Rebellion (XR), which has called for a Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill. The UK has legislated for net zero emissions, by 2050 in 2019. However, Extinction Rebellion’s view is that 2050 is not soon enough to avoid serious climate change imapcts, and imapcts on biodiversity, so is calling for a 2025 target. A Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Alliance in support of the Bill was launched in September 2020. The Bill has been covered in articles in the Independent and the Guardian, and on the Post Carbon Institute website.
The Climate and Ecology Bill 2019-21 would:
- Require the Prime Minister to achieve climate and ecology objectives, as set out in the Bill.
- Give the Secretary of State a duty to create and implement a strategy to achieve those objectives.
- Establish a Citizens’ Assembly to work with the Secretary of State in creating that strategy.
- Give duties to the Committee on Climate Change regarding the objectives and strategy.
The Bill was published on 2 November 2020. An executive summary and briefing for the Bill is available on the CEE Bill Alliance website, (noting that the title of its Bill is different to the one presented by Caroline Lucas). There is also an Early Day Motion signed by 83 MPs supported by Members from across a number of opposition parties.
There are UK and international strategies and targets for both climate change and biodiversity, which have been integrated into a range of policies The Government also published a 25-Year Environment Plan in 2018 and is planning to introduce further targets on the basis of it.
A UK Climate Assembly created jointly by a number of Westminster parliamentary committees published its Final Report on 10 October 2020, but is not connected to XR’s demand for a statutory Citizen’s Assembly.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) reports to Parliament every year on Government progress on climate change; the Government is also required to consult the CCC for advice on setting five yearly carbon budgets. The Government also publishes annual progress reports on Biodiversity targets.
Environment Bill: proposed amendments
The CEE Bill Alliance’s latest campaign has focused on securing amendments to the Government’s Environment Bill 2019-21, in order to reflect the proposals in the Climate and Ecology Bill. The Environment Bill had day one of its Report stage in the House of Commons on 26 January 2021. A carryover motion secured on the Environment Bill now means that further progress on it is not now expected until the next Parliamentary session.
Two amendments proposed at Committee Stage on 26 November 2020 were supported by the CEE Alliance , but were not successful. The first, New Clause 28 set out new statutory environmental objectives and commitments for the Secretary of State and for the new Office for Environmental Protection, which is due to be established under provisions in the Bill. New Clause 29 would have required the Secretary of State to report to Parliament within six months on the “adequacy of environmental legislation and policy for meeting the climate and ecology challenges faced by the United Kingdom and the world.”
A further amendment was tabled at Report Stage, New Clause 9. This was the same as New Clause 28 in Committee. It was also debated on 26 January 2021 and referred to by several Members but not pushed to a division. Transcripts of the Committee Stage and Report Stage are available online.
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