The King’s Speech: a climate battleground

The King's Speech is an opportunity for the government to get the UK on track to delivering its climate and nature targets, while embedding democracy and fairness. Here's Greenpeace UK's take on what should – and shouldn't – be included.


The first King’s Speech of King Charles III reign, and the last monarch’s Speech of this Parliament will be on Tuesday 7th November. It will be a key test of whether Sunak will continue to present himself as an active critic of climate-action and “double down on anti-green policies”- or recognise that such a breach of the climate consensus is a moral, economic and political mistake.

Many of the solutions needed to tackle the climate and nature crisis can also help address other issues, such as the cost of living crisis, as well as boosting the economy and strengthening our energy security. Much of this does not require new legislation but can be delivered with existing powers and spending, with the right political will.

However, the programme of legislation for a new Parliamentary session shows where the government’s priorities lie – so the King’s Speech is a chance for Sunak to show he is governing for the country’s best long term interests, rather than using Parliamentary tactics as a crude tool to attempt to score political points.

“The most recent by-election results in Tamworth and Mid-Bedfordshire were a brutal reality check for the Prime Minister. Sunak’s cynical attack on climate action, his ditching of green policies, and attempts to drag net zero into his culture war strategy have failed to shift the dial with voters.

This is Sunak's last roll of the parliamentary dice before the election. He needs to choose between tackling the country's real problems through boosting green infrastructure investment and forcing corporate polluters to change their behaviour - or doubling down on his divisive culture war strategy that will likely lose him votes.

Instead of furthering the government’s frenzy for new oil and gas and trashing nature through deregulation, he should use the King’s Speech to introduce new bills on energy, planning, pollution and the Global Ocean Treaty. These would complement delivery of our climate and environmental targets while lowering bills, protecting our oceans, revitalising green spaces, and restoring the UK’s credibility on the world stage.”
Ami McCarthy, Greenpeace UK political campaigner Tweet this

What should be in the King’s Speech?

The four proposed Bills below would help complement the extensive policy and government investment measures required to get the UK on track to delivering its climate and nature targets, while embedding democracy and fairness (as set out in Greenpeace’s general election manifesto recommendations published in September).

Green Infrastructure and Planning Bill

  • Private renters have been paying £800 per year more on their energy bills because of poor energy efficiency. To lower energy bills, minimum standards for efficiency in homes and commercial buildings must be introduced. Private rented-sector homes and social housing should be improved to at least Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) C rating by 2028 and fuel poor homes by 2030.
  • To enable delivery on energy efficiency and clean heating, a Warm Homes Agency needs to be established, supporting the training of installers, creation of green jobs across the UK, and consumer protection and advice.
  • The Bill should change the remit of North Sea Transition Authority so that it proactively plans the transition to a clean energy North Sea, and revokes its remit of “Maximising Economic Recovery” of fossil fuels.
  • To deliver more renewable power into the energy system, a revised planning system is needed to support the build out of the electricity grid, a process which should also require early, proactive and meaningful engagement with communities.
  • New obligations should also be created for the government to spatially plan the marine environment and offshore electricity grid. This should maximise offshore renewable generation whilst enabling an overall increase in biodiversity when all activities are regulated, and – if planned properly – would also minimise onshore grid infrastructure.
  • Introduce a requirement for polluting companies and the financial sector to align their business models and investment practices with the 1.5 degree goal in the Paris Agreement and the UN Global Biodiversity Framework. This would unleash billions of private sector finance for green industry.

Global Ocean Treaty Bill

To uphold the government’s reputation as a leader in global ocean protection, UK ratification of the Global Ocean Treaty must happen before the next election. Independent legal advice sought by Greenpeace confirms that this can happen swiftly through a short 8-clause Bill in the next Parliamentary session.

At least sixty countries need to ratify the treaty in order for it to enter into force, and this needs to happen well ahead of June 2025 in order for there to be enough time to designate new ocean sanctuaries in the high seas to protect at least 30% of global oceans by 2030.

Nature and Pollution Bill

While post-Brexit environmental legislation provides a wide-ranging framework for driving the vast majority of action needed through policy and government investment, a few additional measures are required to complement this:

  • Introduce a new human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment into UK law, following the resolution in the UN General Assembly
  • Bring UK air quality limits in line with World Health Organisation levels
  • Establish a National Nature Service that provides young and disadvantaged job seekers with skills in nature restoration, and contributes to nature and habitat creation and recovery.
  • Set legal targets for eliminating sewage spills in ecologically sensitive areas and designated bathing waters by 2030.
  • End retail sales of peat in England and Wales, as promised last year.
  • Support a Scottish-style Right to Roam across the whole of the UK to extend public access to woodlands, rivers and green rural spaces.

Rights and Democracy Restoration Bill

There needs to be wholesale repealing of oppressive laws and regulation that hampers peaceful protest or acts to chill representative democracy:

  • Revoke the Public Order Act, while still ensuring legislative measures are in place to support buffer zones to protect women using abortion clinics from harassment.
  • Revoke the Public Order Act 1986 (Serious Disruption to the Life of the Community) Regulations 2023.
  • Revoke the Police, Courts and Sentencing Act.
  • Revise the Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 to remove the chilling effect on civil society campaigning in the context of elections.
  • Scrap voter ID requirements
  • Repeal sections of the Elections Act 2022 to guarantee the independence of the Electoral Commission
  • Revoke the anti-strikes legislation and the Trade Union Act 2016.

What shouldn’t be in the King’s Speech

What's next?