Energy minister Claire Perry has dismissed calls to declare a “climate emergency” however, she did express sympathy with Extinction Rebellion.
Perry voiced concerns over the methods used by the protesters, and joked with former Labour leader Ed Miliband, that would have been us “out there carrying placards ourselves just a few years previously.”
Perry did question what would be achieved by declaring a climate emergency, she argued that legislation is required to bind her successors to meet targets thus preventing a future government to “wriggle out” of their responsibilities.
Miliband, asking his questions said, “People can believe that the tactics of Extinction Rebellion are right or wrong, and the minister obviously believes they’re wrong, but the demonstrators are certainly not wrong about the failure of politics to do anything like what is necessary to fight climate change. They are right.”
He said that the planet is “warming far faster than we are acting.” He then asked Perry, Will she seek to persuade the Prime Minister to declare a climate emergency, as many local authorities have done, to focus minds across government on the centrality of this issue to every department, not just hers?”
Miliband continued, “The right response to rebellion on our streets is to produce a revolution in climate leadership, and the time for action is now.”
Perry responded to Miliband and said, “I do want to correct him, I don’t disagree with the protests, I disagree with some of the methods, certainly not the message, and as I said to him before I think he and I would have been out there carrying placards ourselves just a few years previously.”
Discussing that the government declare a climate emergency she said, “The thing is I don’t know what that would entail.
“I could stand here and say I believe there is a climate emergency, he could say that, many of our local councils have done so, including my own council of Wiltshire.
“The question is what are you going to do about it, and that is why one of the things we should be proud of is we have I think the most detailed proposals for how we will hit our carbon budgets.”
Adding, “It’s the easiest thing in the world for a politician to stand up and say ‘I’m going to do this, I’m going to set these targets’ knowing I’ll be dead and buried before those targets have to be met.”
The responsible cause of action would be to put forward legislation to “bind every successive minister,” Perry said.
She added, “There is not one single thing that will move this dial, we have to change everything, we have to do it rapidly and we have to do it in a way that no future government can wiggle out of those responsibilities.”
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said, “The minister says that she doesn’t know what a climate emergency looks like, can I start by saying that it looks like doing what is scientifically necessary, not just what is deemed to be politically possible at the time.”
Perry said of the meeting, “We’re not going to go into that sort of political tit-for-tat that takes us down a rabbit hole of conflict that this situation does not need.”
Labour’s Thangam Debbonaire said, “It’s an emergency right now, it’s an emergency across the world, glaciers are melting, seas are rising… what’s stopping her from declaring a climate change emergency and then treating the problem as an emergency?”
Perry responded to Debbonaire, “I don’t see the point of saying anything unless we have actions to solve the problem.”