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The UK become the first country in the world to officially declare a state of 'climate crisis'


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The UK has become the first country in the world to declare an environment and climate emergency after MPs debated several hours in Parliament today.

UK parliament Image Credit: Alan Cleaver

There had been a number of petitions circulating over the past weeks, asking MPs to declare a climate crisis. One such petition was released by the Labour party and another was created by the global environmental organisation Greenpeace calling the Government to declare a climate emergency and to take action - such as banning all new oil and gas production in the UK, fracking and tripling renewable energy by 2030.

The parliamentary debate also comes after weeks of protests by school pupils led by Greta Thunberg, as well as groups such as Extinction Rebellion calling for immediate action concerning climate change across the UK and the rest of the world.

The highly publicised visit of the 16-year-old Swedish activist who spoke to the UK parliament over a week ago, meeting with party leaders put some more pressure on Parliament, although Theresa May failing to attend.

In days leading up to the debate, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, as well as the Welsh Government had already declared that the world is facing a ‘climate crisis’.


The parliamentary debate included the UK’s responsibility to tackle climate change alongside other countries and that the UK should be the ‘first country in the world to do so’. In his speech, Jeremy Corbyn declared:

“We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control unless we take rapid and dramatic action now. This is no longer about a distant future. We are talking about nothing less than the irreversible destruction of the environment within our lifetimes, of members of this house. Young people know this, they have the most to lose...Today we have the opportunity to say ‘We hear you’.” [Starting 13:47]

 Floodwaters surrounding houses in Dakha, Bangladesh

Countries such as Bangladesh have already succumbed to the devastations of climate change and subsequent rising sea levels/ Image Credit: CAPRA Initiative on Flickr

He went on to call the climate crisis the “the most important issue of our time" and referred to the previous weeks' protests as "a necessary wake up call.”

While there was disagreement about how much the UK has already achieved, there was a consensus between Government and opposition that more needs to be done.

Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, also admitted that there was a need to do more to tackle climate change. In his speech he said:

“Across this house and outside it, there are many political figures and political leaders who have played a part in raising awareness of the challenge of climate change and making clear that we must do more.

Rt Hon Michael Gove MP

 Image Credit: Chatham House on Flickr

"The environment belongs to all of us. The cause of climate change is a fight which unites us. All of us in this House have a common humanity that we need to defend.” [Starting at 14:24]

In addition to Corbyn and Gove, more than 60 MPs presented speeches to underline their stance on the UK’s need to tackle climate change.

Cat Smith, Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood underlined the importance of addressing the issue with immediate effect by referring to the UN’s 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report - which calls for the drastic reduction of global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide by 2030. She said:

“Last year’s IPCC report could not have been any clearer that we have just twelve years to take real action. That is not twelve years to debate about whether or not we need to take action, but twelve years to actually come up and implement policies that dramatically cut down our carbon emissions and change how we as individuals live our lives.

"And that needs to start today...We simply can’t afford either financially or otherwise to continue down the same route that we have been on.” [Starting at 15:43]

MPs from all parties discussed how the UK will tackle climate change in a cross-party plan of action and how the achievements reached through the European Union will continue to be implemented in the UK.

A further topic discussed was the controversial plans for the new expansion of a Heathrow runway, which was approved despite the growing alarm at a climate crisis. Planes contribute a huge amount to carbon emissions each year, with Greta Thunberg calling for people to ditch the quick flights and take longer but more environmentally-friendly train journeys.


The debate and a full mention of all MPs that made speeches for their constituencies' stance on the topic can be found here.

Lead Image: Takver on Flickr

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