Climate change is the defining issue of the 21st century along with the battle against global poverty. So it was with a mix of interest in the subject and sadness about the results of the European Elections last June that I went to the Labour Movement for Europe (LME) fringe meeting at the Royal Albion Hotel in Brighton this lunchtime.
Chaired by former MEP Richard Corbett, one of the select band who have kept the LME going over the years, we discussed the Copenhagen targets on climate change, including the contribution made by Gordon Brown. Glenys Kinnock spoke first, and was as passionate and lucid as ever; she is an excellent Minister for Europe respected by all of us.
It is regrettable that President Obama has shown very little commitment to climate change and no firm commitment on levels of finance. On the other hand the European Union has promised a 20 per cent cut in greenhouse emmisiions by 2020, and the EU will up this if the Copenhagen discussions come up with higher targets. The money for this must be new money – Gordon Brown in very clear on this. Europe must also act together.
Glenis Willmott was the second speaker with Richard Howitt with his purple tie taking the fouth slot. Where else would you fiind a platform of two Richards and two Gleni(y)ses? Is this a metaphor for Europe hedging its bets or maybe an example of European consensus?
Glenis told us how Labour has taken the lead on climate change and has worked to persuade the other parties to come on board. The Heads of EU Governents eventually agreed their targets, including 20 per cent of EU energy coming from renewable sources. This was no thanks to the Tories who would almost certainly not have pursued the climate change agenda. The Tories have, as we all know, left the mainstream EPP to join a bizarre group of right-wing misfits, including climate change deniers from the Czech Republic. Tory MEPs do not support measures to deal with climate change when voting in the European Parliament.
And finally, Richard Howitt. All of us were with Richard when he siad just how much he misses Richard Corbett in the European Parliament. Along with Glenis Willmott, Richard paid tribute to Linda MacAvan who led for the Socialist Group on the climate change negotiations, making a real impact on our behalf in working to introduce the EU targets. As the Labour MEP for the East of England, Richard explained how European money had hepled Lowestoft with its water shortage problems, showing how Europe has a concrete effect at local level.
As EPLP Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Richard explained how Foreign Affairs is becoming more and more about climate change. Conflict now is as much about water as oil or security issues. The European Global Climate Change Alliance working with developing countries shows the way things are moving. The EU has come into its own over climate change. Global problems require international solutions.