MPs vote to declare 'environment and climate emergency'

1 May 2019, 22:49 | Updated: 1 May 2019, 23:36

MPs have voted to make the UK parliament the first in the world to declare an "environment and climate emergency".

Members backed a non-binding Labour motion in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a statement after the vote: "This can set off a wave of action from parliaments and governments around the globe.

"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."

Later, addressing a climate change rally outside parliament, he acknowledged the vote "indicates we understand what the emergency is".

He called for a "green industrial revolution... a green new deal" with the benefits going "to everybody".

The motion succeeded after Theresa May decided not to whip her MPs against Labour's proposal.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove acknowledged MPs face a climate "emergency" - although he stopped short of backing Labour demands to officially declare one.

Mr Gove warned the next generation will "face the consequences" if action is not taken now to deal with it, as he urged the Commons to unite to meet the threat before them.

He also insisted legislation due "shortly" will mark a "step change" in how the country tackles climate change and wider ecological degradation.

Mr Gove invoked the bipartisan spirit that helped Britain through the world wars of the 20th century, saying: "We've led in the past in defence of freedom, let's lead now in defence of our planet."

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said climate change should be treated like a war-time emergency.

"We need to be serious that a climate emergency isn't a matter of a few words and then we move on with business as usual. Business as usual is climate appeasement," she said.

Though symbolic, the vote recognises the urgency needed to combat the climate crisis and will be seen as a victory for protests launched by the Extinction Rebellion strikers in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, protesters glued themselves to trains in the capital and disrupted traffic in several locations.