When David Cameron became leader of the Conservative Party, he promised that he would push the environment up to the top of the political agenda. He has stated time and again that climate change is an issue his party feels strongly about. He has also made it clear that the Coalition’s position is to support an increase from 20% to 30% of the EU’s targets for reducing C02 emissions.
Despite these assurances from their leader, 16 Tory MEPs yesterday voted in favour of an amendment which sought to water down the European Parliament’s commitment to a 30% target. Two further Tories abstained.
The amendment in question called for a commitment to a renewed climate target for 2020 ‘if and when the conditions are right, as well as setting long-term targets to restore and give more emphasis to the incentives for innovation’. By giving in to pressure from the strong lobbying of Business Europe, and supporting the introduction of conditions to the 30% target, the Conservatives have shown a lack of understanding of the importance of fighting against climate change. With the help of the Tories, the centre-right parties in the EP managed to swing yesterday’s vote.
Unlike the Conservatives, my Labour colleagues and I fully supported the 30% target. Sticking with the old 20% target to reduce emissions from the current rate of 17.4% (a mere 2.6% increase) by 2020 is not a credible aim if the EU has genuine ambitions to lead the world in the fight against climate change. Many people agree with me on this point. In the run up to the vote I received literally hundreds of emails from my constituents calling for all MEPs to fully support the 30% reduction target.
Since the Socialist group is strongly against imposing unwelcome conditions on the EU’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we opted yesterday to vote against the report as a whole. We refuse to bow to pressure from the centre-right MEPs, who, it is clear, are not committed to tackling climate change. Their action has undermined both the EU’s credibility in global climate change negotiations and the EU’s economic recovery.