Chris Davies MEP writes…Britain betrayed

European Union flagIt’s good to know who your friends are, and when it comes to combating climate change they don’t include Britain’s Conservative MEPs and their UKIP collaborators.  In a European Parliament vote yesterday they tipped the balance, securing the deferral and probable abandonment of attempts to ensure that the carbon market continues to function, and sending out a signal that the EU is no longer interested in promoting low carbon investments.

Europe’s emissions trading system is the largest in the world and is driving down CO2 emissions from power stations by 1.74% each year, but by putting a price on CO2 it was also supposed to promote low carbon investments and this it is failing to do.  The scale of the economic recession was not anticipated. A surplus of allowances now on the market had reduced the carbon price to €5/tonne, not nearly enough to stimulate alternative investment.

The European Commission wanted to adjust the timing of the release of more carbon allowances (‘backloading’) to stimulate the price of carbon and keep the market functioning until long term changes to the emissions trading system can be made.  They presented a minor proposal, expected only to raise the carbon price to the €8-10/tonne figure that existed last September, but the issue became totemic and a test of whether Europe wished to maintain its lead role on global warming issues.  While backloading was publicly supported by companies like Shell, Alstom, General Electric and the power generators, others argued that this was not the moment to support carbon prices.

Whatever the balance of arguments this should have been a no-brainer for British representatives.  The Coalition Government in the UK has introduced a carbon price floor for electricity generators that is set at levels above those of the EU market.  (As it happens I’m not a great fan of this independent approach – if we cut our emissions by more, other EU countries can get away with doing less – but I admire the commitment to promote low carbon investments).

With a carbon price of our own it must be in the interest of British industry to ensure that they pay a similar CO2 levy to their European competitors.  Conservative (by 22-4) and UKIP (by 10-0) MEPs decided instead to mount a self-defeating protest against both the policies of the Coalition Government and of the European Commission.  They used their votes to oppose the action that would have raised the carbon price and levelled the playing field for British industry.  The reaction of the markets was immediate; the carbon price fell to €2, increasing the disparity to the disadvantage of British business.

The vote was lost by 334-315.  If the Prime Minister had been able to persuade just ten more Conservative MEPs to vote to support government policy we would have won.

Remember those pictures of David Cameron behind a sledge pulled by huskies as the Conservative leader tried to show that his party cared about the environment?  With their votes in Strasbourg his MEPs not only killed the husky memory, they gave its corpse a good kicking.

* Chris Davies is MEP for the North West and the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman in the European Parliament

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in News.
Bookmark the web address for this page or use the short url http://ldv.org.uk/34139 for Twitter and emails.

4 Comments

  • The voting record may be found here:
    http://www.votewatch.eu/en/clarifying-provisions-on-the-timing-of-auctions-of-greenhouse-gas-allowances-draft-legislative-resol.html

    What I find interesting is firstly the UKIP MEPs actually turned up to vote, and secondly both Conservative and UKIP MEP’s voted in a way that increased the disparity between in carbon prices to the disadvantage of the UK, hardly consistent with the policies of their respective parties.

  • Tony Dawson 17th Apr '13 - 5:56pm

    “Tories and UKIP conspire to do Britain down!”

    or even:

    “Tories and UKIP vote through multi-million hand-out to foreigners”! :-(

  • So why are you in govt with the Tories then? I know, I know there is no alternative or some such nonsense.

  • Alex Macfie 18th Apr '13 - 9:33am

    @sally: Because the parliamentary arithmetic at Westminster makes a Con-LD coalition the only option for stable government in the UK. This does not affect what either party’s MEPs do, since the European Parliament is a separate institution from the UK parliament; MEPs are not bound by the Coalition Agreement, and the European Parliament doesn’t work like that anyway. Apparently the Tory MEPs voting record on Climate Change is against stated Tory policy and manifesto commitments (never mind UK government policy). This is a problem for the Tories to sort out among themselves. From a political point of view, it is good to have Tory and Lib Dem MEPs airing their political differences in public, as it underlines the fact that they are indeed separate parties, and the Lib Dems really need to make much more political caplital out of these differences.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?




Recent Comments

  • User AvatarPatrick Kelly 29th Jul - 12:37pm
    It's time for the US to lead a sizable international force into Gaza with the following mission: 1 - Enforce an immediate end to the...
  • User AvatarStephen Hesketh 29th Jul - 12:35pm
    I endorse David Allen's improvement on my 'political status' suggestion. Indeed, such a comment could easily be placed in a box corresponding to the 'Website'...
  • User AvatarJoe Otten 29th Jul - 12:20pm
    Clearly all this killing on both sides is both devastatingly wrong, and is making the prospects for peace more distant. We should back the UN...
  • User AvatarA Social Liberal 29th Jul - 12:16pm
    Perhaps a little Israeli child should hold up a similar placard, something like this . . . . "You tried to kill us at the...
  • User Avatarjenny Tonge 29th Jul - 12:13pm
    Thank you John for putting it so clearly and thank you that child for telling how it is on the banner. Our political leaders are...
  • User AvatarJohn McHugo 29th Jul - 12:11pm
    The tragedy of it all is that if Israel had accepted Palestinian rights in international law as the starting point for the Kerry negotiations -...