Why aren’t MPs feeling the pressure to act on climate change?

political mandate smallThis post is written by Gwen Buck, policy adviser at Green Alliance. 

Ten years ago something happened in parliament that needs to be celebrated. Something that showed the UK as truly innovative and a global leader.

MPs from across the political spectrum came together and, in an almost unanimous vote, supported the landmark UK Climate Change Act. This requires the government to set legally binding ‘carbon budgets’ and has an overarching target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050.

Thanks to the Climate Change Act we have seen emissions fall year on year and, in 2017, the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions were just under half of those in 1990.

At the same time as this momentous anniversary, Green Alliance is pleased to be re-launching our Climate Leadership programme, which has been one of our most popular projects from the past decade.

In 2009, under the shadow of the Climate Change Act, this programme engaged scientists and experts in educating a cross party group of MPs to strengthen their understanding of the science, policy and politics of climate change. Many of these MPs went on to be some of the strongest advocates for climate ambition in the following parliament.

Political will is in short supply
But, as Britain is absorbed in negotiating its exit from the EU, political will to tackle climate change is in short supply. In October, the IPCC released a report which gives us 12 years to limit a climate change catastrophe. Yet, just three weeks later, the autumn budget didn’t even give climate change a mention.

Research shows the public want our politicians to act, 63 per cent of UK adults agree that the UK should be a global leader in tackling climate change.

Despite this, new research that Green Alliance is publishing today, in collaboration with Lancaster University, shows that few MPs feel any pressure from their constituents to act on climate change, and they do not think that they will be rewarded for it, either by the electorate or by their peers.  And, soberingly, a significant minority of them make the explicit decision not to talk about climate change at all, even if they support action, as they fear it will be career limiting.

The new Climate Leadership Programme for MPs
Clearly part of the solution will be to equip a new cohort of parliamentarians with the knowledge and support they need to take on this challenge.

Using the insights from this research to shape the programme, we will find ways for citizens and MPs to debate and develop policy proposals together, like the Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change in Ireland, which has already demonstrated the value of these deliberative processes. We will also work with leading scientists to increase MPs’ understanding of climate impacts, and with policy experts, to look at effective policies, across the economy: from transport and housing, to industrial efficiency and land use. With this programme, we will be helping politicians to strengthen the political mandate and develop the right policies to meet the targets of the Climate Change Act, through the next decade and beyond.

 

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