Harriet Harman

Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham. Mother of the House of Commons.

Demanding the Government declare a Climate Emergency


We’re all hearing about the catastrophic effects of global warming and doing what we can to recycle, use reusable bags and coffee cups and worrying about supermarkets using so much plastic packaging.

Last month, Southwark became one of the first councils to declare a Climate Change Emergency and commit to combating greenhouse gas emissions and rising global temperatures. The council has already worked to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 37% since 2010. And aims to achieve carbon neutrality in the borough by 2030, which means to remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as we put in to it.

But while we step up our own efforts locally, what is really urgent now is that the Government must take decisive action.

Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old Swedish activist who is leading the charge on climate change around the world, visited Parliament and challenged all of us as MPs last week: “I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

And she’s right. Climate change is not a theoretical future. It is already here - wildfires, droughts and floods are hitting people around the world – and disproportionately hurting poorer communities in Africa, Asia and Far East.

The science is clear, we must act now to have any hope of reversing global warming. This cannot wait. It is for today’s governments.

This message has hit home to the thousands of school students and Extinction Rebellion protesters who, inspired by Greta, have demonstrated in recent weeks. Their message is that the Government must do much more to reduce the carbon dioxide we are releasing into the atmosphere.

In response to people reducing food waste in their homes, to the leadership Greta Thunberg has shown and to the thousands of people protesting and writing to their MPs, the Government should set clear, measurable targets to move away from harmful energy sources like burning coal and gas. And use tax breaks to make clean energy more affordable for people to use, like onshore wind farms, solar panels and electric cars.

Labour are taking this forward in Parliament this week by bringing forward a motion to make our Parliament the first in the world to formally recognise the climate emergency. I am backing this.

We are demanding the Government urgently implements new targets on renewable and low carbon energy and transport, properly funds environmental protection, reverses species decline and puts forward proposals to move towards a zero waste economy, including phasing out single-use plastics and investing in making homes more energy efficient through double glazing and draught proofing.

We need to work together across the House of Commons to try and trigger a wave of action here and from other governments around the world to halt global warming, reduce pollution, make our cities healthier and better places to live, protect our green spaces and deliver climate justice in the UK and around the world.

And switching to a carbon neutral green economy and using more solar and wind energy will create thousands of new jobs.

Unless we step up the action now, people in the future will look back on our generation and say “you knew what was happening, but you did nothing to prevent it”. As well as each of us, and the council changing the way we do things. It is time for the Government to wake up and act with the urgency that the science demands.

The Labour Party will place cookies on your computer to help us make this website better.

Please read this to review the updates about which cookies we use and what information we collect on our site.

To find out more about these cookies, see our privacy notice. Use of this site confirms your acceptance of these cookies.