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Conservative MEPs rebel against UK climate policy

5 July 2011

WWF-UK today expressed disappointment that European policymakers were forced to reject a call for more ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets after proposals were watered down by a group that included UK Conservative MEPs. 

In a vote postponed from a fortnight ago, the European Parliament voted against adopting a report that would have called on the EU to increase its ambition for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from 20% to 30% by 2020 from 1990 levels. 
Analysis by the European Commission and others suggests that a 20% reduction target effectively represents ‘business as usual’ due in part to the impact of the recession, and that 30% would be a more cost-effective target for the EU to deliver. 
WWF maintains that the 30% target for 2020 would be the bare minimum required for Europe to contribute its fair share to reducing global emissions in line with a minimum 80% reduction by 2050.
The votes in Strasbourg saw a succession of amendments adopted, that significantly undermined the ambition in the original report, being supported by conservative groups within the European Parliament. As a result, the Green MEP who authored the report, Bas Eickhout, was left with little option but to encourage the amended report to be rejected, which it was by a majority vote.
Support for the regressive amendments from Conservative MEPs contributed to the no vote, with Martin Callanan, leader of the UK Conservative delegation, ignoring UK Government policy in favour of a 30% emissions reduction target for the EU, in defiance of interventions from David Cameron.
As the voting margins were very close it is clear that, if more UK Conservatives had followed the party line, the key votes would have gone the other way and the report may not have fallen.
Commenting on the vote, Keith Allott, Head of Climate Change at WWF-UK, said: ”Despite the media spotlight on the UK Conservative MEPs, despite the questions in the House of Commons and despite even the Prime Minister’s interventions, we are disappointed that so many Conservative MEPs failed to vote in line with their own party policy, let alone UK Government policy. 
“In the circumstances, it’s perhaps a good thing that the report – fatally undermined by MEPs’ support for negative amendments – was not adopted. But serious questions need to be asked of Martin Callanan and his fellow Conservative MEPs as to whose interests they represent.”
Notes to editors
1.    The European Parliament report “On the analysis of options to move beyond 20% greenhouse gas emission reductions and assessing the risk of carbon leakage” was not legislative, but would have confirmed the Parliament’s view that the EU should unilaterally adopt 30% emissions reduction target, and called on the European Commission to bring forward proposals to achieve the more ambitious target.  The final result Of the vote on whether to adopt the report was 258 in favour, 347 against with 62 abstentions
2.    The European Parliament vote in Strasbourg on 5 July follows the postponement of voting on the same report originally scheduled for 22 June 2011.
3.    A group of 72 leading European business, including M&S, Eurostar, RSA, Unilever, and Dong Energy recently signed a declaration calling on the European Union to increase its climate ambition and move to a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020 from 1990 levels.
For further information, please contact:
George Smeeton, tel: 01483 412 388, mob: 07917 052 948, email: GSmeeton@wwf.org.uk

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