Nature and Biodiversity

The UK has declared a state of emergency on climate change

Protesters block traffic outside The Bank of England during the Extinction Rebellion protest in London, Britain April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson - RC1CF289DE50

Did the protests work? Image: REUTERS/Simon Dawson

Elizabeth Piper
UK Chief Political Ccorrespondent, Reuters
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Nature and Biodiversity?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how United Kingdom is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

United Kingdom

Britain’s parliament declared a symbolic climate change “emergency” on Wednesday, backing a call by opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for “rapid and dramatic action” to protect the environment for generations to come.

Climate change activists from the Extinction Rebellion protest at the Parliament Square in London, Britain May 1, 2019.
Climate change activists from the Extinction Rebellion protest at the Parliament Square in London, Britain May 1, 2019. Image: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

The measure was passed as an opposition motion, using a procedure typically ignored by the ruling party, and has no direct consequences for policy.

But it is a nod to an increasing vocal activist movement particularly among young people in Europe, who have staged school strikes and civil disobedience campaigns to demand action.

Eleven days of protests by the Extinction Rebellion activist group caused major disruptions in central London in recent weeks, and Swedish schoolgirl campaigner Greta Thunberg addressed lawmakers on a high profile visit.

Corbyn told lawmakers they should listen to those “who have the most to lose” from climate change, saying the younger generation is “ahead of the politicians on this, the most important issue of our time”.

“We have no time to waste. We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control unless we take rapid and dramatic action now,” Corbyn told parliament.

“Today, we have the opportunity to say, ‘We hear you’ ... By becoming the first parliament in the world to declare a climate emergency, we could, and I hope we do, set off a wave of action from parliaments and governments all around the world.”

Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who met activists this week, disappointed the campaigners by avoiding the word “emergency” and referring instead to the situation as “grave”.

Have you read?

Extinction Rebellion welcomed Wednesday’s motion in a tweet: “This has seen (lawmakers) start to #TellTheTruth about the climate & ecological crisis. They must now halt biodiversity loss, go net #ZeroCarbon2025 & create a #CitizensAssembly.”

Separately, Thunberg tweeted: “Historic and very hopeful news. Now other nations must follow. And words must turn into immediate action.”

Rebecca Newsom, head of Politics for Greenpeace UK, said in a statement that tackling climate change had long been delayed.

“The best time to declare a climate emergency was 30 years ago; the second best time is now.”

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Nature and BiodiversityClimate Action
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

4 charts that show how organized crime is endangering wildlife and damaging ecosystems

Michelle Meineke

June 11, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum