Tory MPs Splutter Over EU While Earth Chokes
You don’t need to buy The Daily Mail to get hold of the priceless banter on its opinion pages; it shouts abuse at you across the newsagent; it bellows out bile from petrol station forecourts; it downloads its distress onto your smartphone. It’s an addictive dose of comedy, parody and parallel reality.
One editorial column caught my eye recently, included the following line:
“The level measured by US monitors has not existed on Earth in three to five million years…Before the Industrial Revolution, when man first started pumping carbon into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, CO2 levels were about 280 ppm – rising steadily since….the 1950s.”
400 parts per million may seem like another statistic; another piece of data in the techy world of climatology. But the planet has been here before. 400ppm has a precedent. There was no ice at the poles, seas were up to 40 meters higher and deserts were much larger the last time there was this much insulation in the loft. We are not there yet, but ice and desert patterns show that this precedent might yet be repeated. (As an aside the Mail reports the melting ice caps here but blames them on El Nino)
The UK can not address this global challenge alone.
By working within the EU, we have been at the heart of some of the most progressive environmental policies that have taken great strides to arrest this slide into the climatic abyss. Working together with European partners has meant that our national industrial and consumer economies have not been adversely impacted as we attempt to reduce our levels of pollution.
The policies that the EU has pioneered, including the much derided EU Emissions Trading Scheme, are being adopted by major economies across the world, including China, Australia, South Korea and California. As these policies take hold the EU continues to push for a comprehensive global agreement in 2015, and there is no doubt that carbon reduction measures will be on the agenda when the US and EU open talks on a trade deal later this year.
And the impact of EU policies has gone a lot further. By acting together on renewables targets and energy efficiency the UK has built a green economy that has delivered 5-6% growth throughout the economic crisis. As other major economies follow suit, we have exportable engineering, science and financial services expertise that can deliver prosperity as well as a cleaner economy. This has all been underwritten by the reassurance and collective endeavour of the EU.
We have not just seen economic benefits. As the Guardian reports, the EU has driven the UK towards better protection of birds, habitats and rivers:
“The EU’s approach to policy making is fundamentally different. Informed by the precautionary principle, and institutionalised within the environmental provisions of the Lisbon treaty…As a result we enjoy cleaner drinking water, cleaner bathing beaches, and cleaner air. The laws that gave those benefits to us were strongly resisted by the UK government.”
As the Guardian points out, a yes to withdrawal to the EU would mean:
“while the UK would still be covered by the majority of EU environmental laws we would no longer be covered by the bathing beaches directive, the birds directive, and the habitats directive. Nature lovers – and anyone with small children that like to play on the beach – beware.”
So there is no denying that the European question has important consequences for UK citizens.
Membership of the EU is the best way for the UK to address the worsening climate crisis, ensure continued green growth, and protect our island’s vulnerable environment.
If they truly believe in the national interest rather than self-interest, Tory MPs should get on with the job of working with European partners to reduce our carbon emissions, and strengthen our commitment to environmental protection. They should leave the parody to the Daily Mail.