A new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Future Generations, launched in January 2018, aims to raise the profile of future generations amongst UK parliamentarians and others. Chaired by Daniel Zeichner, MP, the new group will “raise awareness of long-term issues, explore ways to internalise longer-term considerations into decision-making processes, and create space for cross-party dialogue on combating short-termism in policymaking.”
The group’s secretariat, which is based at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) at Cambridge University, is planning a series of activities over the next 12 months to further its aims. These include speaker events and discussion roundtables, briefings on catastrophic risks, and networking events for parliamentarians, academics, industry stakeholders and other APPGs. It has already informally supported FDSD’s proposal for a House of Lords Committee for Future Generations.
The APPG emerged, in large part, from CSER’s 2017 research paper on Rights and Representation of Future Generations in United Kingdom Policy-making. The paper, which was edited by Natalie Jones and co-authored by Mark O’Brien and Thomas Ryan, widens the traditional analysis of long-term issues beyond environmental and social challenges. It includes the need to consider ‘existential and catastrophic risks’ such as potential pandemics or those arising from technological advances such as artificial intelligence or geo-engineering.
The paper’s authors also set out implications for political systems in the United Kingdom. They point out that there is a tendency in England to focus on short-term environmental hazards such as flooding or coastal erosion rather than broader stewardship and resource management (as is the case in Wales). They also note that, given the rate at which economies are growing and technologies advancing, unless we change our political and policy-making capacity to consider the long term “we are more likely to anticipate an obstacle too late and suffer the consequences than past generations”.
The authors present a case for respecting the rights of future generations—not simply because we are obliged not to restrict possible futures, but also because it is important to ensure that any new legal rights arising from anticipated “technological, risk-based or moral developments” are created and can be fulfilled.
A good place to start
Creating an APPG for future generations was the first of seven recommendations made by the CSER researchers, which they presented as a good starting point to explore the potential of further changes.
Other recommendations included:
- obliging all legislation to include an assessment of long-term risks,
- creating an expert advisory panel to assist policymakers,
- increasing public engagement, and
- incorporating intergenerational rights in any proposed Bill of Rights.
Another longer-term goal is the creation of a formal Select Committee on Future Generations spanning both the House of Lords and House of Commons. This would be similar to the Joint Committee on Human Rights. This idea is, in many ways, an extension of our proposal for a House of Lords Committee for Future Generations. While our proposal fits into a wider discussion about the development of the second chamber itself, a Joint Committee provides another way to embed and ensure greater long-term thinking within our political system.
We look forward to working with the APPG over the coming months and years.
To find out more about the APPG, including how to get involved, contact the group directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org