Leading campaign groups have launched a flurry of actions urging Conservative MEPs to rethink their plans to oppose deeper cuts in Europe’s carbon emissions.
Fears that a relatively small group of British Conservatives could tip tomorrow’s European Parliament vote against more ambitious action on climate change prompted a demonstration by Christian Aid campaigners today (22 June) outside the Newcastle offices of Martin Callanan, the Conservatives’ European leader and MEP for the North East.
The commitment to a 30 per cent cut is in the coalition agreement and has won support from other member states.
The Assistant Bishop of Newcastle has also weighed in, saying he is "very unhappy to hear that attempts are being made in the EU Parliament to block the wider acceptance of the courageous policy" to reduce EU emissions by almost a third in the next 10 years.
The Right Rev Frank White added: "Poor people across the world are always the most affected by climate change and they will not thank us if we don't follow Mr Cameron's lead on this issue."
Christian Aid, Oxfam, Greenpeace, WWF and Green Alliance have meanwhile written to the Prime Minister, urging him to bring Mr Callanan and his fellow MEPs back into line with the coalition’s support for 30 per cent cuts in European emissions by 2020.
Under current EU plans, emissions will be cut by only 20 per cent from 1990 levels - dramatically less than is needed from Europe in order to lead global efforts to keep the temperature rise within safe limits.
The leader of the UK Conservative delegation, Martin Callanan, said: "Conservative MEPs have always been sceptical of the EU unilaterally increasing its target to 30 per cent without a worldwide agreement … European companies will be unable to compete if the reduction targets are set too high."
But in a separate letter to Mr Callanan, Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid expressed the development agency’s deep disappointment at Conservative MEPs’ opposition to cuts of more than 20 per cent. "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 two degrees," said Mr Adow, Christian Aid’s Senior Adviser on Global Advocacy.
"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 per cent 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 percent 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 per cent emissions reduction target."
Tory MEPs recently replied to a question from the Guardian newspaper asking how they would vote. Only one out of the 23 – Marina Yannakoudakis – replied to say she would vote in favour of 30 per cent, and Julie Girling said she planned to vote for 20 per cent but might compromise on 25 per cent if that was on the table.