F29: Tackling the Climate Emergency

Federal Policy Committee

Mover: Wera Hobhouse MP (Spokesperson for the Environment and Climate Change).

Summation: Duncan Brack (Chair of the Policy Working Group).

Conference recognises that the world is facing a climate emergency; unless urgent action is taken to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, the worst impacts of climate breakdown will follow, including severe damage to economies, societies and nature, the possible collapse of poor countries with weak governance most exposed to the impacts and a huge and permanent growth in the numbers of refugees fleeing their homes.

Conference further recognises that in the UK and elsewhere the worst impacts will be felt by the poorest people and the poorest communities.

Conference therefore resolves that the UK must reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases to net zero as fast as possible, and endorses the aim of net zero greenhouse gas emissions from the UK by 2045 at the latest, with interim targets of a 75 per cent reduction from 1990 by 2030 and 93 per cent by 2040 (subject to revision should faster progress prove possible), in compliance with the international targets to limit climate change set by the Paris Agreement of 2015.

Conference recognises that setting a target date for net zero emissions is essential but by itself is not enough; early credible action is more critical, and the precise target date for achieving net zero is less important than urgent action to set the economy on the path towards it.

Conference accordingly endorses the proposal for an emergency ten-year programme of action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and power generation - the most cost-effective options - to near-zero, helping to reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions by 75 per cent by 2030.

Conference condemns the Conservative government for failing to take action even to meet the UK's previous less ambitious target, and for pursuing measures, such as fracking and airport expansion, which will increase emissions.

Conference recognises the UK’s offer to host the 2020 UN climate change summit (COP26) and, in keeping with the policy paper’s demand “to raise global ambition”, calls for the UK to propose a major strengthening of the UN’s capacity to lead emissions reduction by appointing a UN Climate Commissioner and executive team to hold governments to account and mobilise public opinion, with the UK offering an initial contribution to the increased resourcing required.

Conference therefore endorses policy paper 139, Tackling the Climate Emergency, as a statement of Liberal Democrat policies on climate change and in particular its key priorities:

  1. Ensuring that the net zero objective is built into decision-making by national and local government, businesses, investors, communities and households, rewarding rapid progress towards net zero and encouraging behavioural change in patterns of living, working, travelling and eating.
  2. Creating a Just Transition Commission to advise on how to deliver a net-zero economy that works for everyone, and Just Transition Funds to support development in those regions and communities most affected by the transition.
  3. Stopping Brexit and working closely with the UK's European and global partners to raise global ambition, develop zero-carbon technologies and increase aid funding to help developing countries reach net zero.
  4. Cutting UK greenhouse gas emissions and reducing energy costs by reducing the demand for energy through measures such as home insulation and greater energy efficiency.
  5. Ending the use of fossil fuels in the UK economy, including banning fracking and the opening of new coal mines and pits, and replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy.
  6. Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, including a massive programme of tree planting and the deployment of technological solutions.

Conference further welcomes the detailed proposals to:

  1. Unleash democracy by:
    1. Legislating to create a statutory duty for each principal local authority to set a Zero-Carbon Strategy, including local and community power generation, home energy retrofits and local transport and land use plans, with an accompanying major decentralisation of powers and resources.
    2. Ensuring climate objectives are a top priority for central government, including appointing a cabinet-level Chief Secretary for Sustainability in the Treasury, creating a new Department for Climate and Natural Resources and introducing a requirement on all public bodies to report on the extent to which climate risks pose a threat to their ability to fulfil their responsibilities.
    3. Establishing a national Citizen's Climate Assembly to improve public engagement, tasked with debating every aspect of climate policy and delivering recommendations to government and stimulating public debate.
  2. Decarbonise finance and investment, and make the UK the green finance capital of the world by:
    1. Investing in zero-carbon infrastructure for power, heat, transport, industrial carbon capture and storage (CCS) and afforestation.
    2. Establishing a new Green Investment Bank to steer private investment into these sectors.
    3. Regulating financial services to encourage green investments, including requiring all companies registered in the UK and listed on UK stock exchanges to disclose their level of climate risk and make provisions for the costs associated with meeting targets compliant with the Paris Agreement.
    4. Greening the taxation system to make the polluters pay and to reward progress towards net zero.
  3. Use innovation, skills and education strategies to support the net zero target, including:
    1. Fostering the development of regional industrial innovation clusters, increasing support for Innovate UK and the Catapult Centres, and funding large-scale technology innovation missions.
    2. Developing a zero-carbon skills strategy to tackle any skills gaps that could hinder progress.
    3. Implementing zero-carbon education and public engagement strategies to ensure everyone understands the urgency of the climate crisis and is able to participate in decision-making over the options to tackle it.
  4. Place climate action at the heart of foreign policy by:
    1. Stopping Brexit and working within the EU for greater climate ambition.
    2. Incorporating climate objectives into the heart of UK diplomacy.
    3. Tripling support through the UK's International Climate Fund for for climate-related development spending and ending support from UK Export Finance for fossil fuel-related activities.
  5. Decarbonise buildings by:
    1. Carrying out an emergency ten-year programme to reduce energy consumption from all the UK's buildings, cutting emissions and fuel bills and helping to end fuel poverty, including providing free retrofits for low-income homes and piloting a new subsidised Energy-Saving Homes scheme.
    2. Introducing a zero-carbon standard for all new buildings by 2021, rising to Passivhaus standard by 2025.
    3. Adopting a zero-carbon heat strategy, including reforming the Renewable Heat Incentive, requiring the phased installation of heat pumps in homes and businesses off the gas grid and taking a decision on the appropriate mix of zero-carbon technologies - electric heat pumps, hydrogen and hybrid solutions - within the next three years.
  6. Decarbonise power by:
    1. Accelerating the deployment of renewable power generation, aiming initially to reach a generation capacity of at least 80 per cent renewables by 2030 (including any increase in electricity demand for transport, heat and industry).
    2. Developing smart grids, storage solutions and interconnectors to other countries' electricity grids to guarantee security of supply and to improve the management and balancing of the system.
    3. Promote decentralised and community energy, including setting a target of more than half of households and businesses sharing in the renewable energy revolution by 2030, including requiring all new homes to be fitted with solar panels.
  7. Decarbonise transport by:
    1. Encouraging the rapid take-up of electric vehicles by ending the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and small vans, including hybrids, by 2030, banning their use on public roads by 2045, and accelerating the installation of charging points.
    2. Converting the rail network to ultra-low-emission technology (electric or hydrogen) by 2035.
    3. Reducing the need for car travel by investing in public transport and amending the National Planning Policy Framework to promote sustainable transport and land use.
    4. Reforming the taxation of international flights to target the most frequent flyers, placing a moratorium on the development of new runways (net) in the UK and introducing a zero-carbon fuels blending requirement for domestic flights.
  8. Decarbonise industry by:
    1. Working with industry to introduce resource productivity and circular-economy models.
    2. Banning non-recyclable single-use plastics within three years and initiating negotiations on an international agreement to reduce the production and consumption of plastics.
    3. Providing infrastructure funding to accelerate the introduction of industrial carbon capture and storage.
  9. Decarbonise agriculture and food by:
    1. Prioritising climate change mitigation in agricultural support systems, including measures to increase soil carbon, tree planting and woodland creation.
    2. Developing a National Food Strategy to promote the production and consumption of healthy, sustainable and affordable food.
  10. Remove carbon from the atmosphere by:
    1. Increasing UK forest cover by planting an additional 60 million trees a year, and by restoring peatlands.
    2. Supporting research and innovation for negative emissions technologies, particularly Direct Air Capture and Carbon Storage (DACCS), and introducing a funding system to reward delivery.

Applicability: Federal; except 1. a) (lines 59-63) and 7. c) (lines 148-150) and aspects of 3. (lines 90-101), 5. (lines 111-124), and 8., 9. and 10. (lines 156-178) which are England only.

Mover and summation of motion: 16 minutes combined; movers and summation of any amendments: 4 minutes; all other speakers: 3 minutes. For eligibility and procedure for speaking in this debate, see page 4.

The deadline for amendments to this motion is 13.00 Monday 2 September; see page 6. Amendments selected for debate will be printed in Conference Extra and Monday's Conference Daily. The deadline for requests for separate votes is 09.00 Sunday 15 September; see page 3.

In addition to speeches from the platform, voting members will be able to make concise (maximum one minute) interventions from the floor during the debate on the motion. See pages 3 and 4 for further information.

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