We need action, not promises! A letter to MP Anthony Mangnall challenging his refusal to back the CEE bill

West Country Bylines have been sent a copy of this letter from South Hams Cimate Action Network to MP for Totnes, Anthony Mangnall. It was sent on 15 September. To date there has been no response.

Dear Anthony

Action, not promises

Thank you for setting out your reasons for saying no to Devon County Council’s request that you support the CEE Bill (your letter of 6th Sept).

South Hams Climate Action Network welcomes the Government’s ambitious targets for tackling the climate and nature crisis. You will know that such targets are critical – the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report made it clear that we are within a decade of passing irreversible tipping points if dramatic action isn’t taken now. 

You mention ‘targets’ no less than 8 times in your letter. The problem is that Government targets are not backed by policy and action. You were not able to reference one single piece of actionable policy or ready-legislation that will be able to deliver against these targets.  Because they don’t exist yet.

Chris Stark, CEO of the Government’s own advisory Climate Change Committee (CCC), has described the UK’s strategy as “deficient” and its Chair, Lord Deben recently said ‘‘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 committee has made it clear that targets are meaningless without policy and action to achieve them. 

This is not a new problem. It is always tomorrow. The CCC warns every year of targets missed. Can you see that offering yet more targets without action is just not good enough?

The UK is forecast to exceed its Sixth Carbon Budget by a wide margin putting the UK on track for up to a staggering 3°C of warming according to www.ClimateActionTracker.org which assesses each country’s policies. The UK is hosting this November’s international climate conference, COP26, described as the last best chance to avert climate catastrophe. Other countries can see right through our empty promises which offer a welcome excuse to petro states like Russia for further delay. Conversely, getting behind the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (CEE)with its legally-binding commitment to follow the science would send a phenomenally powerful message: fitting that the country that led the industrial revolution would lead the world out of the climate crisis.

On the crisis in nature, few people know that England is rated the 7th worst country in the world at protecting the natural world, according to a study by the Natural History Museum. Yet as you say, the proposed Environment Bill would merely ‘aim’ to halt the decline in nature, with a watchdog that has few powers and lacks full independence. That isn’t good enough, which is why the CEE Bill would require that by 2030, nature is visibly and measurably on the path of recovery.

You raise a valid concern that the ‘historical emissions’ clause in the CEE Bill could appear to be ‘attributing blame for past development and industrialisation’ and we have flagged this to the Zero Hour campaign. The clause was intended merely to highlight that the UK is already a signatory to the 1992 Kyoto Agreement which established the principle that wealthier nations accept a responsibility to cut emissions faster than poorer countries. There is no intention for countries to calculate their historic emissions, but the wording is unclear. Thank you for your feedback. This will be clarified in the next draft. 

You also caution that the CEE Bill is just a ‘presentation bill’ and that even if you support it, there is little chance of it becoming law. But that misses the point. If you stand with other Conservatives, many of whom are edging towards supporting the bill, it can be adopted by the Government and passed. This is exactly how our current Climate Change Act 2008 came into being.

We are only too aware that Conservative MPs are being pressured to resist the CEE Bill. We see similarly worded letters from MPs around the country. But we know you care deeply about our beautiful countryside and our precious oceans. And you now have an incredibly strong mandate to act, with a groundswell of support for the CEE Bill from across your constituency. Conservative-led county and district councils have been joined by almost 20 parish and town councils across South Hams, in addition to the 130 organisations behind this January’s open letter. 

We hope that with such solid support, you will be able to set aside short-term political considerations and stand strong for your constituents and for our beautiful planet, and against vested interests who wish to continue selling oil and gas whatever the consequences. We are at a turning point in human history and we are counting on you.

As anyone who has ever married, signed a commercial contract or adopted a child knows, when we mean it, we make a legal commitment. This creates trust and certainty. It’s Zero Hour now for climate and nature. Promises for tomorrow are not enough. It’s time for the CEE Bill’s legally-binding commitment to follow the science to limit warming to 1.5°C and to protect and restore nature. Do you mean it, Mr Mangnall?

Our detailed fact check of your letter can be found here: www.sh-can.org/mangnall-factcheck/