source : guardian.co.uk
24 June 2011
A key vote in the European parliament on whether to toughen Climate change targets has been postponed, giving David Cameron a breathing space in which to head off a planned rebellion by his MEPs.
The vote – on whether to raise the EU’s emissions reduction target from 20% to 30% by 2020 – was slated to take place on Thursday, but will now be delayed until 4 July. The MEPs said they had run out of time to discuss the issue, because of a packed debating schedule.
The UK government has been pushing for the higher target, which is part of the coalition agreement. But Cameron was facing an embarrassing revolt from his party’s members in the European parliament, many of whom were planning to vote against the 30% goal. The Tory leader in the European parliament, Martin Callanan, said he was advising the MEPs to vote against the raise, arguing it would be bad for businesses and would lead to higher energy prices for consumers.
The Guardian revealed the planned revolt on Tuesday, prompting a question to Cameron in prime minister’s question time the following morning. Cameron responded to say that he would be “working on” his MEPs to persuade them to vote in line with coalition policy.
Green campaigners urged him to use the delay to ensure that the MEPs fell into line. Ruth Davis, chief policy adviser at Greenpeace UK, said: “This vote was postponed after the prime minister personally intervened so that those opposing a higher climate target could no longer count on the support of his party. The politicians backing dirty industries realised they would lose in their bid to scupper moves towards a greener Europe d no option but delay. It marks a win for those backing the shift to a stronger and cleaner economy but it also means pressure will need to be sustained until the new vote in July.”
The prospect of a revolt by MEPs on the issue is an embarrassment for the prime minister, who has committed Britain to some of the most ambitious greenhouse gas targets in the world and staked his reputation on leading “the greenest government ever”.
Callanan told the Guardian on Tuesday: “Conservative MEPs have always been sceptical of the EU unilaterally increasing its target to 30% without a worldwide agreement … European companies will be unable to compete if the reduction targets are set too high. Many high energy consuming companies are already being forced to relocate to countries outside the EU, which have little or no environmental legislation, putting many Europeans out of work, and an increased target will exacerbate this trend.”
His remarks were echoed, before Cameron’s intervention, by several other Tory MEPs who replied to a Guardian question to all Tory MEPs asking how they would vote. Only one out of the 23 – Marina Yannakoudakis – replied to say she would vote in favour of 30%, and Julie Girling said she planned to vote for 20% but might compromise on 25% if that was on the table.
The MEPs’ reluctance to agree with the coalition’s climate aims is at odds with Cameron’s statements. Only last month, after committing the UK ti the toughest carbon targets in the EU, Cameron reiterated his green claims: “When the coalition came together last year, we said we wanted this to be the greenest government ever. This is the right approach for Britain if we are to combat climate change, secure our energy supplies for the long-term and seize the economic opportunities that green industries hold … the UK can prove that there need not be a tension between green and growth.”
Climate scepticism among Tory MPs and MEPs is increasing, according to party insiders.
Ministers told the Guardian that Downing St was intervening to talk to the MEPs, and that “dialogue” with them was also continuing at a ministerial level.
Labour said the vote was likely to be tight enough that it could be lost. “Cameron’s own MEPs prove that the Conservative party is not serious about tackling climate change. The ‘greenest government ever’ is increasingly exposed as all talk, and little action,” said Meg Hillier, the shadow energy secretary.