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.  dailymail

One editorial column caught my eye recently, included the following line:

‘in the depths of this rapidly worsening economic crisis……this….. is an utterly irrelevant distraction from the urgent business of government.’

Was this recognition from the flagship of the right that it’s time to move on from Conservative self-mutilation and time-wasting over Europe?
Sadly not.  When it comes to Europe, the Mail continues to pretend that the UK’s relationship with the unelected bureaucrats of the EU, rather than the economic crisis, is the defining issue of the age.
“Utterly irrelevant distraction” was the view of the Mail on the reform of the House of Lords.  Their view seems to be that principles of democracy are our sword and shield in the battle to reclaim sovereignty from the EU, but when it comes to the red benches of SW1 (who have a say on every piece of primary UK legislation), there are better things to do.
So instead of working on measures to create jobs and growth in the UK, or even reforming our domestic system, Tory MPs have spent the last week doing nothing more than creating what Nick Robinson describes as ‘parliamentary graffiti’.   It is a waste of time that the Conservatives should be ashamed of.
That is not to suggest that I think the issue of our relationship with the EU is irrelevant.  We need to discuss, debate and understand the links that we have with our neighbours, and if there is a suggested change to that relationship, a national vote on the issue would settle it once and for all.  The Lib Dems have always said that an in/out vote is the right question, we just believe that the right time would be when a new deal is on the table.   The dawn of a new trading deal with the US is not the time to jeopardise our relationship with our most important partners.  It’s a bit like threatening to sell a load of shares in a company on the eve of a massive deal that will send its price through the roof.
But there was a piece of news last week that put the ridiculous spectacle of Tory navel-gazing on Europe into sharp focus.
Last Friday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s monitoring centre in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, released data showing the daily average CO2 over the Pacific Ocean was 400.03 ppm as of May 9.
As the Telegraph reports:

“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)Polarice

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.”

Even I can remember how grim the beaches of South Wales were before the blue flag scheme made the UK start to clean up its coastline.  bflogo_2341

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.

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