Cross-party MPs are planning to table legislation to force the government to adopt a radical climate change target to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Ahead of a global wave of climate protests on Friday, Labour frontbencher Clive Lewis and Green MP Caroline Lucas have announced plans for a bill that would bring forward the deadline for net-zero carbon emissions by two decades.
Theresa May vowed to introduce a legally binding target to cut carbon emissions by 2050 after recommendations from independent climate change advisers - but campaigners want the government to move faster to tackle the looming climate crisis.
Dubbed the “Green New Deal”, the new bill would shift focus from economic growth towards reducing inequality, tackling the climate emergency and protecting the natural environment.
The legislation would herald a major push towards decarbonising the economy, by looking at ways to reduce air travel and cut consumption of meat and dairy, single-use plastic and packaging.
Businesses would have a legal responsibility to manage their carbon emissions, while banks, local government and other forms of government will be forced to consider their climate responsibilities.
It would also include measures to overhaul energy and transport systems, to decarbonising farming and to ensure all new homes are carbon neutral.
Mr Lewis, the shadow treasury minister, said: “Our demands are quite clear and quite simple: we want a Green New Deal that will radically change how our economy works and for whom.
“It will mean the democratisation of our economy on a scale not seen since 1945 but done for the twenty-first century, so that it empowers people and communities not ever more powerful, unresponsive bureaucracies.
“The rapacious economic system, driven by rampant inequality, that has dominated these past 40 years and lead us to the brink of catastrophe, must now make way for a political economy based on the needs of people and planet first.”
Labour’s official policy is to meet net-zero before 2050, while shadow chancellor John McDonnell said he wanted to “aim for 2030” but he had been advised it was not realistic.
While the party is not officially supporting this backbench bill, Labour is likely to come under pressure from its own activists to shift its stance at the annual party conference this weekend.
Ms Lucas, a former Green leader, said: “The young climate strikers on the streets today don’t just want climate action, they want a Green New Deal that delivers for everyone. If we are to mend our broken democracy and give people hope for their future, we must invest in an economy where we live sustainably, differently and more equally.
“We know this is possible. We know it’s essential. Our system is in crisis and faces environmental and political breakdown.
“Our Green New Deal Bill, launched this morning, sets out an action plan. When parliament returns, we will be doing everything we can to make it happen.”
It comes as students, workers and campaigners were braced for what could be the largest climate protests in history.
The climate strikes, which will see children and young people walking out of lessons and lectures on Friday, are being held in more than 200 events across the UK, with backing from trade unions, politicians and businesses.
Jeremy Corbyn will address climate strikers on Friday, where he will lay the ground for potential movement on green policies at next week’s Labour conference.
The Labour leader is expected to say: ”I know the situation can look bleak. We have a prime minister that has called global warming a ‘primitive fear without foundation’.
“The US president is a full-blown climate denier, putting our planet in danger by pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. And the Amazon is on fire, looted by big corporations with a Brazilian president watching on who doesn’t care.
“But when we see young people demanding urgent action, it’s an inspiration. When I see this movement growing – and it’s growing every day – I know we can tackle the climate emergency.
“The next Labour government will welcome your pressure and hear your demands for change.”
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