There has been some criticism of Labour councillors for the way we voted on a motion at the Council meeting on Thursday 27 May. A motion of support for the Climate and Ecology Bill, which had been laid before Parliament by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and a group of other MPs in September 2020 came to the Council. Labour proposed an amendment which welcomed the Bill, but laid the emphasis on attempting to deliver change through the Environment Bill which is currently being debated. This amendment was passed, and the amended motion was then passed by the council
What that means is that the City Council supports the ambitions of the CEE Bill, but believes those ambitions need to be achieved in a different way, because not even the CEE Bill’s most ardent supporters believe it will become law when we have an anti-environment Tory government with an eighty-seat majority led by a man who has betrayed every promise on the green agenda he has ever made.
It would have been easy for us to accept the motion, and see it as simply a piece of gesture politics that would do no harm.
Voting to endorse the CEE Bill would achieve nothing practical, but we also need to be clear what we were being asked to vote on. The Motion was about support for the Climate and Ecology Bill, which had its first reading on 2 September 2020. The Bill is 12 pages long with ten headings. See https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-01/0172/200172.pdf
We could not support all the provisions of this Bill, for the same reasons that Daniel Zeichner refused to support it on first reading. These were set out in our amended motion. These criticisms are well known, and in fact they have been listened to by the CEE Bill’s proponents. If you visit their website you will find a radically different document, now shortened to three pages under eight headings.
There is no reference to natural climate solutions, and it now sets out how a Citizens’ Assembly would make recommendations for consideration to the Committee on Climate Change and the Joint Nature Conservancy Committee, and then to the Secretary of State. The current proposals have other changes too which are listed on their website. I understand that if the current CEE Bill receives a second reading in Parliament this amended version will be proposed as a replacement for it
If the motion put by my fellow councillors had made reference to the revised proposal – not yet a Bill – then we could have found common ground. But by asking us to support a piece of draft legislation that even its authors had accepted was unworkable and undesirable they gave us no choice but to amend the motion to one that expressed support only for the principles underlying the draft legislation.
This has been presented as Labour rejecting the CEE Bill. This is not the case. The authors of the bill have rejected their original ideas – we were asked to back them, and chose instead to call for action in Parliament in a way that might achieve real change, instead of making a PR point.
Cambridge Labour are committed to addressing the climate and biodiversity emergences. The new proposal for the Bill has a lot to recommend it, and it has support from MPs of all parties.
I very much hope that the Bill will be amended as per the Proposal if it is to come before parliament again, and I will support the Bill having a second reading.