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Action, Not Promises – A Reply To John Howell

Zero Hour Oxfordshire Campaigner Kate Oldridge has been playing open-letter tennis with Henley MP John Howell over at The Henley Standard. On the 6th September John Howell published his reasons for not supporting the Climate & Ecological Emergency Bill. You Can find the article here. This is our response, published the following week in letters in the Henley Standard.

Action, Not Promises John Howell

Thank you, John Howell, for your reply to our open letter to you (Standard, September 3).

Zero Hour Oxfordshire welcomes the Government’s world-leading, ambitious targets in tackling climate change and the destruction of nature.

You will know that such targets are critical — the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report made it clear that we are within a decade of passing irreversible tipping points if dramatic action isn’t taken now.

COP26, the climate change conference the UK will be hosting in November, calls for ambitious action to meet global targets.

You mentioned “targets” no fewer than 13 times in your letter. The problem is that these government targets are not backed up by policy and action. You were not able to reference even one piece of actionable policy, planning or ready legislation that will be able to deliver against these targets. That’s because they don’t exist yet.

You say the Environment Bill, Agriculture Act etc will provide the framework for the policy that is needed to meet those targets. But these do not even mention climate change while the Climate Change Committee called the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan ‘an important statement of ambition’ but not backed up with firm policies. You claim that it is “disingenuous” to claim that the CEE Bill is the first time that climate and nature have been linked, but the CEE Bill is the only joined-up legislative plan before MPs that addresses the interconnections between the climate, environmental degradation, and biodiversity loss and sets a clear direction of travel.

Chris Stark, chief executive of the Climate Change Committee, has described the Government’s strategy as “deficient” and its chairman Lord Deben said recently: “It is hard to discern any comprehensive strategy in the climate plans we’ve seen in the last 12 months… [with] very little action, very little delivery.” The CCC has made it quite clear that targets are meaningless without the policy and action in place to achieve those targets.

You say that government targets have been advised by “independent experts rather than campaigners”. Please note, again, that the CEE Bill has been drafted by scientists, legal experts and economists and is entirely led by the latest science. World-leading science contributors to the Bill include Professor Joanna Haigh, former president of Royal Meteorological Society, and Julia Steinberger, professor of ecological economics at the University of Lausanne and co-author of the IPPC Report. You can see the full list of Scientific contributors to the CEE Bill on our national website here.

The UK is forecast to exceed its sixth carbon budget by a long way. Even if we do get to net zero by 2050, the fact that we burned so much carbon on the way means we will make a large contribution to a rise in temperatures beyond 1.5C or 2C with horrific consequences.

You say that a climate and nature assembly is not democratic. It is precisely the opposite. It allows a representative group of citizens to have a real say in the UK’s transition to a zero carbon society and a thriving natural world, while respecting parliamentary sovereignty. You say the assembly offers no advantages over conventional policy making. However, the UK Climate Assembly, endorsed by Sir David Attenborough, was hailed as a great success. Its report of September 2020 was welcomed by Alok Sharma MP, who said its recommendations were “an important part of the evidence base for developing the Government’s net zero strategy”. In July, a report by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “The Climate Assembly has proved that deliberative engagement is important for both building consensus and maintaining public trust in the net zero transition and will facilitate the behavioural change required to underpin successful transition to net zero.”

In light of the above, we have two requests. First, we invite you to attend a panel event and Q&A with world-leading scientists at Westminster on September 22 to discuss three essential outcomes we need from the COP26 summit and the COP15 biodiversity summit. This event will be chaired by Sir David King, formerly the Government’s chief scientific advisor, and will be for MPs, peers and their staff.

Secondly, we invite you to attend a Zero Hour Oxfordshire event with your fellow Conservative Oxfordshire MPs at which we will be joined by world-leading Oxfordshire scientists and local business leaders (date to be agreed).

Will you engage with us — an ever-increasing number of concerned constituents, businesses, community groups, councils and schools — on this most urgent of issues?

Readers can sign our open letter to Mr Howell (and other Oxfordshire MPs) here.


Yours faithfully,

Kate Oldridge

Zero Hour Oxfordshire, Shiplake

Local celebrity supports the CEE Bill

Oxfordshire resident, Ben Fogle, heads up national campaign for new UK climate and nature law

Oxfordshire-based broadcaster and adventurer Ben Fogle recently met up with local environmental group, Greener Henley, and Ella’s Kitchen founder, Paul Lindley, to offer his help in calling for a new UK law to address the climate and ecological emergency. The campaign also has the backing of Gillian Burke and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, as well as cross-party politicians, climate scientists and grassroots environmental activists. 

Ben Fogle said:   

“My family recently moved to the Henley area from London and we are struck by the beautiful natural environment here.  It is perhaps sometimes easy to forget that we are in the midst of a climate and ecological emergency, and that we are seeing a dramatic decline in biodiversity even here around Henley. 

I have seen the devastating impacts of climate change and the destruction of nature almost everywhere I’ve been, from the Amazon to the Arctic, from the mountains to the oceans.  

 I’m really excited about the incredible potential of the cross-party Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill. It’s the legislation we need to put the UK on the right track to tackle these crises. We have to make changes now, not only at national level but also at local level.”

Watch Online: Can the UK lead on climate change?

Watch our event held on 11 December 2020: ‘Can the UK lead on climate change?’ with panelists Nick Eyre (Professor of Energy and Climate Policy, University of Oxford, Director of Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions), Clare Shakya (Director of the International Institute for Environment and Development’s Climate Change Research Group), EJ Fawcett (non-binary school student and Youth Climate Activist), Mike Barry (strategic advisor and commentator on sustainable business who developed and implemented Marks and Spencer’s sustainability programme, Plan A), Charles Secrett (former director of Friends of the Earth and advisor to the CEE Bill Alliance team), Jane King (freelance curator and project manager, and co-ordinator of the CEE Bill Alliance team), Estelle Bailey (Chief Executive of the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT)), and Thalia Carr (leadership coach and facilitator in the sustainability sector), with discussion by Layla Moran MP and Anneliese Dodds MP.