Spring Conference 2023

Motion #05

Climate Emergency Policy Working Group Report

Motion passed


Spring 2019 conference instructed the Climate Emergency PWG (CEPWG) to define the gap between the party’s climate change targets and the likely results of its agreed policies. It also instructed all relevant PWGs to create policies to close that gap. The CEPWG has defined the gap but it remains substantial as explained below.

This report covers the period since Autumn 2021.

In recent months two issues have emerged to challenge the basis of our work:

• A paper by James Hansen argues that the greenhouse gases already emitted will, over several centuries, raise the temperature by ten degrees. Although this paper has not been through peer review it’s very unlikely that Hansen will be wholly wrong. This new perspective demands a long-term global goal of removing very large amounts of CO2 from the air.

• Our own analysis confirms fears that the resources, especially metals, needed for the green transition will require a lot of new mining. In fact it’s not clear that the resources needed for the world to make the transition can be made available.

Policy changes at conferences

In this period conference has accepted motions from us that have:


• Raised our combined aid and climate finance commitments, including reparations commitments, to 2.5% of Gross Domestic Product. • Set out policies to exclude fossil fuel assets from the Finance sector. Energy • Set out policy on Green Hydrogen • Set out an emergency plan for energy reduction. • Integrated climate priorities into the Local Planning and Built Environment and Housing Chapters Accountability • Called for the prosecution of the people who failed “to protect [UK] citizens from climate breakdown”. • Demanded greater national accountability for climate damage. Party goals • Integrated climate priorities into the Philosophical Basis and Economy chapters. • Revised the party’s climate targets. We believe that our success in getting sometimes complex changes through conference reflects thorough preparation, mastery of conference procedure and our reputation within the party.

Policy development

Each of the motions presented to conference resulted from the work of a CEPWG sub group and I am grateful to everyone, including some people from outside the PWG, who has contributed to this work.

In addition we formed an Economics subgroup to address questions like: do we need growth? Can we afford the transition? What are the limits to Green Quantitative Easing? The subgroup has gone on to work on a complete rewrite of the Party’s economics policy.

There have also been subgroups on retrofit, waste and biomass.

The modelling subgroup has continued to refine the approach to reaching net zero emissions by 2030 by examining evidence and policy. However the projected 2030 emissions remain far from zero.

Party engagement

We believe that we need to communicate, as well as formulate, policy. We have:

• Contributed to the work of the party Comms team, leaders and spokespeople, especially on energy policy. Our views are not always accepted but seem always to be taken seriously. • Supported the preparations for and work at COP26 (Conference of Parties 26 to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change). • Helped to organise, and provided most of the speakers on fortnightly Green Living Room sessions on climate in 2021. A single event, on energy, was held successfully in 2022 but we have not been able to get support for a new series. • Run sessions at PolicyFest.

Active members of the CEPWG contributed climate emergency perspectives to the Land Use, Transport, Wildlife and Habitats and Refugees and Asylum Policy Working Groups. The Land Use PWG has proposed changes to our climate policies though these were not accepted by conference.

Changing the climate target

From 2017 we aimed to reduce production emissions to zero by 2030 and imported emissions to zero ‘as soon as possible’. The former – ZC2030 – target has been valuable as both a planning discipline and in campaigns but, with just eight, rather than 13, years to go it is no longer credible.

So at our request Autumn 2022 conference voted to change the target to “eliminating all carbon dioxide emissions within 10 years” and to develop policies that “would reduce the UK’s production and consumption greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible.” (CC016 – the change is not yet on the policy website!). This is at least as demanding as the previous targets since the UK has much less control of its imported than of its territorial emissions. Our current estimates of the effects of our policies on production emission are as follows:

Sector Emissions (MTonnesCO2e) now Emissions (MTonnesCO2e) In 10 years Reduction
Power 48 4 91%
Buildings 86 8 91%
Transport 201 41 80%
Industry 101 15 85%
Land use and Agriculture 50 44 12%
Waste and Fluorinated Gases 35 8 78%
Negative Emissions Technologies 0 -20 N/A
TOTAL 522 100 81%

MtonnesCO2e = Megatons Carbon Dioxide equivalent

Our existing climate policies are as necessary to meet the new targets as they were for the old ones, though some need new dates. But they still fall well short of meeting its target.

Consumption emissions

We already have policies that would reduce imported emissions. For instance:

• by decarbonising electricity production we avoid importing natural gas • by decarbonising steel production we avoid importing coking coal • by banning the import of products from recently deforested land we avoid importing ‘deforestation emissions’ • by reducing the consumption of beef and dairy products we avoid importing their embedded emissions. Still, more is needed especially with regard to the import of manufactured goods. Reducing imported emissions is our greatest challenge. Our first step has been to improve our understanding of imported emissions and this is harder than it should be due to incompatibilities between the UK reporting of territorial and consumption emissions. This work is ongoing.

Thanks to

The PWG is far from being a one-person show. I offer here my thanks to:

• Tony Firkins – master of numbers and conference procedure • Smith Mordak for developing some very complex text • Pamela Harling for keeping the show on the road • Georgia Taylor and Nadine Storey for chairing the Economics Sub Group • Jonathan Essex for consistently challenging our thinking.

Last updated on 2023-03-11 at 12:30