5 June 2009: European election, climate and agriculture

The Netherlands and UK voted yesterday to elect new members of the European Parliament, and the other countries will vote on Sunday. The European Parliament has significant powers over EU legislation, shared with the Council of Ministers (that is the National Governments), and the EU has a good set of binding climate targets, to be met by 2020:

  • A 20% reduction in greenhouse emissions (rising to 30% if other countries sign a good agreement to take forward the Kyoto Protocol).
  • A 20% increase in energy efficiency.
  • 20% of all energy to come from renewables.

The European Commission (which is the executive and also has the sole right to initiate legislation) sees this as an important part of economic recovery. A recent Commission report states that by 2020 green energy could create 2.8 million additional jobs, 400,000 of them in renewables (see The impact of renewable energy policy on economic growth and employment in the European Union). 

Polls suggest that the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) will be the group with most seats in the new parliament, with the Party of European Socialists second. The EPP has been progressive on climate, although the UK Conservative Party, which has been the most progressive part of the EPP group, has said that it will leave to set up a new group with other parties who oppose closer EU integration, some of whom are also climate deniers. The Greens are also predicted by polls to do well. However, so are far-right parties who, as well as being racist and the antithesis of any concept of human progress, are also terrible news for the climate.  

The EU sets ambitious targets and member states are fined if they do not meet them. However, the policy levers on energy and transport are primarily with national governments. The Commission should speed up its spending on programmes to protect the climate, such as new energy grids, which will enable Europe to harness more wind and solar power, and Carbon Capture and Storage demonstrations. It should also refuse to give derogations for old, dirty power stations, which are supposed to close in the middle of the next decade under the Large Combustion Plants Directive. And there must be no derogations for any government wanting to expand airports in contravention of air quality directives.

Most importantly, the EU must transform the Common Agricultural Policy.  85% of the money goes to intensive agriculture, which destroys biodiversity, produces unhealthy food and is seriously bad for the climate. All public money for agriculture, in the EU and everywhere else, must go into support for organic agriculture, which is only a third as damaging (see Agriculture and Forests).


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