Christian Aid is gearing up to lobby Tory MEPs to vote to toughen up EU carbon emmissions targets - in accordance with their leader's promises.
By Paul Brannen, Head of Advocacy and Influence at Christian Aid
Hopes that the European Parliament would vote to toughen up carbon emissions reduction targets from 20 per cent of 1990 levels to 30 per cent seemed in jeopardy earlier this week, when all but one of the 23 Tory MEPs said they would come out against the proposal. In the end, Parliamentarians decided to postpone the vote by two weeks. This gives campaigners a final opportunity to lobby Conservative MEPs – click here for details of how to take action.
It was a Guardian front-page that propelled campaigners across the UK into action this week, in a race to persuade MEPs to back stronger European action on climate change and so give the faltering UN global climate talks a badly-needed boost.
‘Tory MEPs defy David Cameron over greenhouse gas targets’, ran the headline on Wednesday’s splash story, which described how a group of just 23 Conservative MEPs could tip a vote due on yesterday against stronger European action to protect the climate.
The prospect alarmed developed and environment campaigners so much that we organised a lightning reaction. Christian Aid, Greenpeace, Oxfam, WWF and Green Alliance fired off a joint letter to David Cameron, urging him to bring his renegade MEPs into line with official Coalition policy, which is to support a move from 20 to 30 per cent cuts in Europe ’s emissions by 2020.
The incongruity between the ‘greenest government ever’ claim and the behaviour of the Conservatives’ MEPs was all too apparent.
Christian Aid, meanwhile, created an almost instant demonstration outside the Newcastle offices of Matin Callanan MEP, the Tories’ leader in Europe , and appealed to our supporters to email him, urging a rethink. At the time of writing, more than 1,500 have done so. They have also contacted other MEPs, with a total of more than 11,000 emails.
By late morning Thursday, all eyes were on the MEPs’ debate, which was shown on the BBC’s Democracy Live. We saw them discuss tractors and nuclear waste – but by the time they neared the vote on Europe ’s greenhouse gas emissions, the session was running 45 minutes late.
MEPs were starting to leave the building, heading for home or lunch, and so at the last minute, the vote was postponed for two weeks. It is now likely to take place between July 5 and July 7.
Initially, we couldn’t quite believe what we had seen – this was the one outcome we hadn’t expected. But then the silver lining became clear – with a two-week delay before the new vote, there is much more time than we had thought to show why a move to 30 per cent cuts is so vital. We need more pressure on these MEPs than ever before
My colleague Mohamed Adow, who worked with drought-stricken communities in northern Kenya before joining Christian Aid’s London office, explained what is at stake in a letter earlier this week to Martin Callanan, leader of the Tory group in the European Parliament.
He began by expressing his disappointment at the Conservative MEPs’ current opposition to European emissions cuts of more than 20 per cent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels.
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“You are aware of the accepted science confirming that emissions cuts significantly greater than this are absolutely vital if there is to be any possibility of keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees… Achieving this is critical to the world’s poorest people, who are already suffering first and worst from the effects of climate change. With that perspective, a commitment to cut by 30% is the minimum acceptable.
“Already, more than 70 businesses representing 3.8 million jobs and one trillion Euros have expressed their support for the 30% target. It is increasingly accepted that Europe ’s future prosperity depends on a low carbon economy and this vote is a key opportunity to promote principles of green growth.
“This target is in the EU’s energy security and economic interests, and the vote provides an opportunity for the EU to take political leadership on these issues at a global level. We urge you to reconsider your position and to vote, and ensure that your ECR colleagues vote, in favour of the proposed 30% emissions reduction target.”