Labour to call vote for Parliament to declare a climate emergency

Demonstrators during a Extinction Rebellion protest in Parliament Square in London Credit: PA

MPs will vote on Wednesday whether to declare an environmental and climate emergency following mass protests over political inaction in addressing the crisis.

Labour will force a Commons vote on the issue, one of the key demands of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement, whose activists paralysed parts of London in previous weeks.

Jeremy Corbyn said he hoped other countries would follow if the UK Parliament became the first in the world to declare a climate emergency.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg met politicians including Jeremy Corbyn and Green MP Caroline Lucas during a visit to Westminster Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

The move was backed by 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg, who has been nominated for the Nobel peace prize for her campaign to tackle climate change.

XR is calling for Government to “tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency” setting out the need for urgent change.

Mr Corbyn praised “the inspiring climate activism we’ve seen in recent weeks” and said it was a “massive and necessary wake up call for rapid and dramatic action”.

As part of their protest, which saw key parts of central London occupied by activists, a small group of XR activists targeted Mr Corbyn’s home by using a bike lock on a fence and then gluing themselves together.

Climate activist glued themselves together outside Jeremy Corbyn’s house in north London as part of the XR protests Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

Mr Corbyn said: “For young people, the climate emergency is the cause of their generation. And we in older generations must face up to this seriously.

“We have to have a much more focused and serious approach towards climate change and the damage we’re doing to our planet.

“We want a world for those in countries worst affected by and least to blame for climate change and our young people.

“On Wednesday, the UK Parliament will have the chance to be the first in the world to declare an environment and climate emergency, which we hope will trigger a wave of action from parliaments and governments around the world.”

Labour’s policy is for the UK to achieve net zero emissions before 2050, an ambition which falls far short of Extinction Rebellion’s call for a 2025 deadline.

The Opposition pointed to official figures showing a 2% reduction in emissions last year, suggesting that a level compatible with net zero emissions would not be reached until 2100.

Greta Thunberg has backed the Labour proposal. Credit: PA

Labour’s actions were praised by Miss Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who has sparked a wave of youth climate protests around the world.

She said: “It is very hopeful that a major European political party has woken up to propose a declaration of a national climate emergency.

“It is a great first step because it sends a clear signal that we are in a crisis and that the ongoing climate and ecological crises must be our first priority. We cannot solve an emergency without treating it like an emergency.

“I hope that the other UK political parties join in and together pass this motion in Parliament – and that political parties in other countries will follow their example.”

Labour will use an opposition motion to push Parliament to act with urgency to avoid more than 1.5C of global warming, which requires worldwide emissions to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero before 2050.

The motion will call for targets for the mass rollout of renewable and low-carbon energy and transport, properly-funded environmental protection measures to reverse the trend in species decline and plans to move towards a zero-waste economy.