British MPs have passed a motion to declare an “environment and climate emergency,” making the nation’s legislature the first in the world to do so, according to the Independent.
“We pledge to work as closely as possible with countries that are serious about ending the climate catastrophe and make clear to US president Donald Trump that he cannot ignore international agreements and action on the climate crisis,” according to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Prime Minister Theresa May had declined to encourage MPs to vote against the measure, focusing instead on the next day’s local elections.
The move follows a recent surge in climate activism in the UK. Sixteen-year old Swedish student Greta Thunberg addressed MPs last week, calling for the nation to step up climate action, and the environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion blocked several major London landmarks. The declaration of a climate emergency was among the primary demands of the Extinction Rebellion group.
In a statement, the group said:
“This is the first step in the government telling the truth about the climate and ecological emergency. Pressure on politicians will now increase as nothing but decisive action will suffice.”
However, several governments have declared similar emergencies, including the Welsh, Scottish, London, Manchester, and Bristol governments.
The move is largely symbolic, and as an unprecedented measure, it’s still unclear what officially defines a “climate emergency.”
However, the motion did call for the government to set a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and called on officials to offer proposals in the next six months to address other environmental issues in the UK and to move towards a “zero waste economy.”
Thunberg praised the move as a much-needed step in the right direction.
“It is a great first step because it sends a clear signal that we are in a crisis and that the ongoing climate and ecological crises must be our first priority. We cannot solve an emergency without treating it like an emergency.”
“We are living in a climate crisis that will spiral dangerously out of control unless we take rapid and dramatic action now. This is no longer about a distant future. We are talking about nothing less than the irreversible destruction of the environment within our lifetimes.”
A report last year from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the world needs to aim for the stricter 1.5-degree Paris agreement target on temperature increases, to prevent some of the most catastrophic effects of climate change. According to the report, that would require reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.