European Parliament declares a climate emergency

Today, the European Parliament voted to declare a climate emergency.

Despite attempts by those on the political right to water down the wording of the motion, both the wording and the resolution as a whole were adopted, as well as targets of 55% greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2030.

At the same time, a motion calling for the adoption of the United Nations COP25 proposals was also passed. This resolution was adopted with strong wording about the need for the European Investment Bank to divest from fossil fuels and the need for an EU climate law. A target of 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 was adopted and the deletion of positive language around Carbon Capture and Storage was rejected.

In declaring the climate emergency, MEPs urged the new European Commission “to fully assess the climate and environmental impact of all relevant legislative and budgetary proposals, and ensure that they are all fully aligned with the objective of limiting global warming to under 1.5°C, and that they are not contributing to biodiversity loss”.

Back in August, I wrote on behalf of the European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP) to the President of the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) Group (of which Labour is a member), calling for the S&D to propose just such a motion on declaring a climate emergency. (See Footnote 1)

The adoption of this proposal by the whole plenary of the Parliament is a remarkable achievement for the Labour Party in Europe. Our proposal was passed by 429 votes to 225 against.

Theresa Griffin MEP, Chair of the EPLP and European Labour spokesperson for Industry and Energy, said:

“This is an incredible achievement. The planet is undergoing the effects of human-caused climate change and the effects will be catastrophic if we don’t act urgently to reduce and reverse emissions of greenhouse gases.”

“I have been inspired by seeing so many young people out on the streets campaigning during the youth climate strikes and knew we had to take action to tackle the growing climate emergency.”

“British workers and industry could benefit from investment in the new technologies and industries that will emerge from this process, but only if we are working with our nearest neighbours on these issues, not pushing them away.”

“When taken in conjunction with the Labour Party’s achievements of the last Parliament in setting ambitious EU-wide renewable energy and energy efficiency targets, this declaration of a climate emergency by the European Parliament truly sets the agenda and direction for future European policy.”

“We only have one planet and this is our chance to ensure it stays habitable and enjoyable for our children to live on. I’m proud to have led on the declaration of an EU-wide climate emergency, but now we must act on this declaration and take steps to limit and reverse human-induced climate change.”

Theresa’s letter to President Iratxe García of the Socialist & Democrats Group is reproduced below:

Dear Iratxe,

Climate change is set to be the defining issue of this mandate. Unless we act quickly and decisively, our planet faces catastrophic climate chaos. The number of environmental refugees is expected to increase to 200 million people by 2050. Bangladesh could lose 11% of its land because of sea-level rise and it has been estimated that by 2050 one in every seven people will be displaced in Bangladesh due to environmental impacts resulting from climate change.

The International Panel on Climate Change has stated that the only way to keep climate change at manageable levels is to restrict the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. On our current trajectory, we hit that level in 2030. We urgently need efficient and long-lasting solutions for those countries most at risk and for the future of our children and our children’s children.

British Labour MEPs have already called on the European Council to declare a Europe-wide Climate Emergency.  However, to ensure climate action is not merely a talking point words must become action. We need an even louder, more unified voice. The EU-including the European Parliament has a vital and leading role to play in urgently tackling climate change. We write to you as the leader of S&D to ask that, on behalf of our political family, you call for a European wide Climate Emergency.

Best wishes,

Theresa Griffin MEP
On behalf of the European Parliamentary Labour Party
6th August 2019