Labour will force a Commons vote on the issue, fulfilling one of the key demands of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement, whose activists paralysed parts of London in recent weeks.
The move comes as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday declared a “climate emergency” in her speech to the SNP conference in Edinburgh.
Ms Sturgeon said the young environmental activists she had spoken to were “right” as she pledged Scotland would “live up to our responsibility” to halt climate change. “Scotland will lead by example,” she said.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he hoped other countries would follow if the UK parliament became the first in the world to declare a climate emergency. The move was backed by 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg, who has been nominated for the Nobel peace prize for her campaign to tackle climate change.
XR is calling for the government to “tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency” setting out the need for urgent change.
Mr Corbyn praised “the inspiring climate activism we’ve seen in recent weeks” and said it was a “massive and necessary wake up call for rapid and dramatic action”.
As part of their protest, which saw key parts of central London occupied by activists, a small group of XR activists targeted Mr Corbyn’s home by using a bike lock on a fence and then gluing themselves together. Mr Corbyn said: “We want a world for those in countries worst affected by and least to blame for climate change and our young people.
“On Wednesday, the UK parliament will have the chance to be the first in the world to declare an environment and climate emergency, which we hope will trigger a wave of action from parliaments and governments around the world.”
Labour’s policy is for the UK to achieve net zero emissions before 2050 – an ambition which falls far short of XR’s call for a 2025 deadline.
XR welcomed Labour’s move and said it hoped the party would “demand the creation of citizens’ assemblies, ending biodiversity loss and reaching net-zero green house gas emissions by 2025”.
The group said in a statement: “We ask all MPs and the UK government to listen to the young people, mums, granddads and scientists who put themselves on the line over the last two weeks to fight for our future and our planet. Now is the time for each and everyone of us to decide which side of history we are on.”
Labour’s actions were praised by Ms Thunberg, who said: “It is very hopeful that a major European political party has woken up to propose a declaration of a national climate emergency.”
Labour will use an opposition motion to push Parliament to act with urgency to avoid more than 1.5C of global warming.