FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions from campaigners about the CEE Bill and its progress in Parliament. 

Background

The science is clear—greenhouse gas emissions are making the planet hotter. If they keep rising, we face unacceptable risks including the loss of the Amazon rainforest, sea level rise and frequent failures of staple crops.

The last few decades have seen a major loss of wildlife around the world, which scientists are calling the sixth mass extinction. The UK is now one of the most nature depleted countries in the world with a loss of biodiversity of 50%. Scientists have said biodiversity loss is so low we now risk ‘ecological meltdown’ with grave risks to food supply.

About the Bill

The CEE Bill calls for an emergency strategy for the UK to address the crisis. By passing the bill, the Government would be making a legal commitment to follow the science.

You can read the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill on this webpage. The page also includes a list of contributors to the Bill. Please note that the official title of the Bill for parliamentary purposes is the ‘Climate and Ecology Bill’.

What this country is missing is a mechanism to ensure that the Government’s strategy does what it says on the tin – i.e. limit warming to 1.5°C and restore nature. The Government is talking the talk but avoiding taking any serious action now. There is currently no obligation on the Government to ensure its plans will achieve the desired results. This allows the Government to avoid confronting the issue.  The CEE Bill will ensure that Government policy and action is in line with the scientific advice.

It is then for Government to determine the specifics of the strategy, with input from a randomly selected group of ordinary citizens (the Climate & Nature Assembly). And we really don’t have to hunt around for answers: scientists and experts have been formulating these for decades. But what is missing is a sense of political urgency and a joined-up, cross-party way of thinking away from day-to-day politics. 

How can this Bill become law?

The CEE Bill was developed by scientists, academics and lawyers, along with members of the Big Ask campaign, which led to the Climate Change Act back in 2008. The campaign for the CEE Bill was launched in August 2020 and the CEE Bill introduced in Parliament the following month as a Private Members’ Bill. With the new Parliament in 2021, the CEE Bill was reintroduced in June, again as a Private Members’ Bill.

A Private Members’ Bill is a proposal for a new law that does not come from the Government (like the majority of proposed legislation) but from backbench MPs. Private Members’ Bills are often used to raise awareness of an issue and are rarely passed straight into law. However, they can lead to new laws indirectly. That’s why they have become a tried-and-tested route for campaigners to push for new legislation. Read on for an explanation of the different kinds of Private Members’ Bills.

To drum up support for the Bill in Parliament, you can apply for various debates. While these debates don’t form part of the Bill’s official passage into law, they provide an opportunity to raise its profile and get MPs talking about it. This is a super important part of our campaign. Just because a Bill has been presented in Parliament, this is by no means a guarantee that MPs will take it seriously—or even read it. So we need to use every opportunity to put it on their radar, familiarise them with its contents, and persuade them that they need to back it.

Existing efforts–UK and beyond

The new Environment Act is an important post-Brexit bill that fills the gap left in our legislation now that we are outside the EU. It does not tackle the core problems at the heart of the climate and ecological crisis and exists to tidy up lots of loose ends – looking at some select issues rather than a connected whole.

It falls short in several important ways:

  • It has nothing whatsoever to do with climate change. The CEE Bill would ensure climate and nature are addressed together. How can they not be? They are inextricably connected.
  • It aims only to halt the decline in nature – whereas the CEE Bill makes a legally-binding commitment to restore nature, demonstrating a reversal and improvement by 2030 – ‘nature positive’.
  • It completely ignores the UK’s impact on nature around the world along our international supply chains and waste routes. The CEE Bill would ensure we take responsibility for our impact on nature wherever it happens.
  • The Government voted down a Lords amendment to make the new environmental watchdog (the OEP) strong and independent.
  • The Government voted down a Lords amendment to require water companies to work to stop dumping raw sewage into rivers – replacing it with very weak wording which allows companies to do almost nothing to solve the problem. Read more at The Rivers Trust.

No. The warning bells are ringing from all directions:

  • UK nations are all rated amongst the 12 worst in the world at protecting nature, with England the 7th worst – according to a shocking new report from the Natural History Museum with RSPB.
  • UK woodland cover is just 13% of our land area compared to a European average of 38%, and our uplands are nearly all bare, contributing to lowland flooding. Government plans to plant 30,000 hectares of new woodland per year, but that’s such a small amount, it will take 10 years to increase woodland from 13% to just 14%.  
  • WWF reports that UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world
  • WWF warns the world of ecological collapse without bold action. The UK has an impact on many critical ecosystems around the world due to our international supply chains, and disposal of waste.
  • The RSPB’s report A Lost Decade for Nature calls for urgent action after the UK fails to deliver 14 out of 20 commitments to nature made under a UN biodiversity treaty in 2010.
  • RSPB’s State of Nature Report warns that we have continued to allow nature to decline in the UK in the last decade, with 1 in 7 species facing extinction. 

We can hopefully all agree that protecting nature is important for its own sake, but nature is also inextricably bound up with climate change. Protecting and restoring nature is also part of the solution to climate change, with critical ecosystems like peat bogs, tidal marshes, forests and sea grasses able to absorb vast quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere. We are currently destroying many of these environments and releasing CO2, making climate change even worse.

By passing the CEE Bill, the government would be making a legally-binding commitment to protect and restore nature, as well as formally recognising the inter-relationship with climate change in order to encourage joined-up thinking. There is no other proposed legislation that would protect important ecosystems like woodlands, peat bogs and wetlands.

The UK is doing better than many countries and has taken welcome steps in the right direction with some ambitious-sounding targets. But the UK is heading worryingly off track even using the Government’s own figures. The Government’s independent adviser, the Climate Change Committee, warns that there has been very little action, very little delivery, and that it’s hard to discern any comprehensive strategy. What’s more, even if we deliver on our plans, they fall far short of what’s required to limit warming to 1.5°C.  

UN scientists have written an entire report to explain the dangers of going beyond 1.5°C of warming. Effects include an increase in droughts, flooding, tropical cyclones and forest fires; sea levels continuing to rise by metres; an increase in species loss and extinction; coral reefs declining by more than 99%; reduced food availability; and new viruses becoming much more common. 

The world is looking to the UK for leadership in its role as the president of the COP26 UN climate conference in Glasgow – a role which continues until late 2022 when we hand over to the next president. By passing the CEE Bill and committing to follow the science, the UK could lead by example, encouraging other nations to follow. Failure to respond to the many warnings from the Government’s own advisors risks offers a convenient excuse to countries like China and India to continue building coal power stations.

Citizen's Assembly

The Climate & Nature Assembly is a citizens’ assembly, a form of deliberative democracy in which ordinary people help guide politicians in making political decisions.  A group of randomly selected members of the public representing a cross-section of society will hear from experts, ask questions, deliberate on policy options and make recommendations to help shape government policy. Citizen’s Assembles are growing fast in popularity around the world as a successful way to tackle difficult decisions, with hundreds taking place right now here in the UK. Find out more at www.participedia.net

A great new BBC documentary follows some of the ordinary members of the public that took part in the limited scope Climate Assembly UK in 2020, interviewing them as they wrestled with the big decisions on how we should respond to climate change. Watch it on BBC iPlayer. Leading Conservative Alok Sharma has spoken out very favourably about this climate assembly.

Business-as-usual has failed for decades to deliver action. A Citizens’ Assembly giving ordinary people a say would help raise public awareness whilst giving the Government the mandate it needs to tackle difficult decisions quickly. 

Some people quote the unsuccessful Canadian assembly, but this took place a decade and a half ago and much has been learned since then. Citizens’ assemblies are now used extensively and very successfully around the world. More info at www.participedia.net. There are hundreds taking place right now in the UK including a new Climate Assembly set up by forward-thinking Conservative-led Devon County Council.

Climate & Assembly proposed in the CEE Bill would NOT in any way circumvent parliament. MP’s would still have the final say over recommendations from the assembly. The CEE Bill simply requires that the assembly’s recommendations are put before Parliament not swept under the carpet. Parliament would remain sovereign.

The Climate Assembly UK in 2020 was a brilliant effort – our thanks to all those involved. But it was organised independently by several parliamentary committees without support from the Government. There was no obligation on Parliament to debate its findings (many weren’t), and very little publicity. One of the main advantages of a citizens’ assembly is that it helps the public to engage in the process. If no-one knows about it, its ability to move the national debate forwards is limited. What’s more, this assembly was not allowed a say on the most important decision of all – on how quickly we need to reduce emissions. It was also relatively small with only 108 members. 

But it showed that this process can work, and work well. Leading Conservative Alok Sharma has spoken out very favourably about the Climate Assembly UK.

So the process needs to be repeated at a larger scale, and this time with the full backing of Government along with prime time television coverage.

The Campaign

Zero Hour, the campaign calling for the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, is a group of campaigners, scientists, academics, and those from business who recognise that our Government is not acting swiftly enough to address climate change and biodiversity loss.
For this type of campaign, the thing that will persuade MPs the most is actually the number and diversity of personalised requests from constituents asking them to support the bill. Simple – but effective!
No, never! None of this lobbying activity is wasted. It is unusual, but not impossible for frontbenchers to be a co-sponsor or support the Bill. Some Labour frontbenchers, such as Fleur Anderson MP, Rachael Maskell MP and Olivia Blake MP have added their name as supporters of the CEE Bill, and Alex Sobel MP is a frontbencher who is also a co-sponsor of the Bill.

Some Conservatives and Labour MPs have been sending out standard responses drafted by central office. Conservatives say that they are doing enough already, and Labour say that this is only a Presentation Bill, so it is not worth their support. You can see these set responses and tips on how to respond here.