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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

MEP calls on EU to show global ‘climate leadership’ in World Environment Day message

AA smoking industrial chimney

LONDON’S Green MEP Jean Lambert has called on the EU to show global ‘climate leadership’ in a message to mark World Environment Day.

She said the EU must adopt tough targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, energy conservation and boosting renewable electricity generation – and, crucially, seize the mantle of global leadership at crucial climate talks in Paris next year.

“That may require making bigger sacrifices than we expect of other nations and blocs,” she said.

Her full message for World Environment Day follows:

“Today is World Environment Day, the annual occasion for us to take stock of recent progress made protecting our fragile environment – and to focus our attention on the action we’ll be taking in future.

This year, the UN Environment Project has urged us all to think about the small islands in the developing world as we do so.

These Small Island Developing States (SIDS) give us many of our most diverse ecosystems, and provide unique homes to some of the world’s most interesting and rare species – but they are also the most vulnerable to climate change, particularly rising sea levels. Indeed many coastal areas in many SIDS are already uninhabitable, either due to sea-salt poisoning or water-logging. In some cases, previously inhabited areas are simply underwater.

So we have much to learn from SIDS, but also a clear responsibility to prevent them suffering the most devastating impacts of climate change: and doing that means cutting greenhouse gas emissions globally, quickly.

By some accounts we’ve made good progress. According to the European Environment Agency, emissions from the EU fell to their lowest level on record in 2012 – putting the EU well on track to achieve its own target of reducing them by 20% on 1990 levels by 2020.

But much of that is as a result of the switch from generating electricity from burning coal to burning gas – and really we need to be using less energy in the first place, and generating what we do need from renewable sources.

Of course the potential is there: the EU’s climate change plan for 2030 should be insisting on strict targets for energy conservation and renewable energy generation. Then, perhaps, instead of giving fracking firms a license to drill under our homes, and allowing developers to build energy-inefficient homes, the Government would be requiring better home energy efficiency measures – and more renewable energy.

The Greens have been pushing on the EU to do exactly that: calling for it to adopt strict targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 60% by 2030 – in fact cuts of more like 90% will be needed – and to require large-scale energy conservation and more renewable energy generation (it already hit 70% in Germany during one recent weekend) as the way to achieve them. I’m not holding my breath though – leaks of the European Commission view on the future of energy in the EU suggest we just need to import gas from somewhere other than Russia – not that we need to use significantly less of it at all.

But we’ll keep pushing. Next year, world leaders will gather in Paris to discuss a global climate change response plan, to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Securing an agreement will mean the SIDS may just be saved from the worst of sea level rises to come – and if that’s going to happen we’ll need a major economic and political bloc to show some leadership on the issue: perhaps making bigger sacrifices than it expects of smaller nations and groups of countries.

The EU can adopt that role and, from a promising starting point – one of falling emissions and a stronger policy – can broker the international agreement we need to stop climate change in its tracks and give the SIDS their future back.”