Comment: Tory MEPs threaten Cameron’s green credibility

David Cameron gets climate change – why don't his MEPs?

By Martyn Williams

Tory MEPs are threatening to undermine David Cameron's green credibility by voting against proposals to strengthen EU action on climate change on Thursday.

David Cameron promised to lead the greenest government ever when he came to power last year and the coalition agreement made a number of bold environmental commitments.

One of these was to "push for the EU to demonstrate leadership in tackling international climate change, including by supporting an increase in the EU emission reduction target to 30 per cent by 2020".

However, it seems that Conservative MEPs are not quite so enthusiastic, with the Guardian reporting today that many are planning to vote against a higher target.

Of the Tory MEPs who responded to a Guardian question only one – Marina Yannakoudakis – said they would vote for a 30% cut in emissions.

Martin Callanan, the leader of the Tory group in Brussels, was reported as saying "Conservative MEPs have always been sceptical of the EU unilaterally increasing its target to 30% without a worldwide agreement… European companies will be unable to compete if the reduction targets are set too high".

But this isn't a view shared by many of Europe's leading businesses. Over 70 top firms – including Asda, BSkyB, Coca Cola Enterprises, Google, Unilever, and Nike – recently signed a joint declaration calling on the EU to adopt a 30% emissions reduction target by 2020 below 1990 levels, to preserve the European Union's competitiveness and build a low-carbon economy.

The pressure is now on David Cameron to act.

A number of commentators suggest that the vote could be extremely close. So the lack of Tory MEP support for a higher EU climate target will not only damage David Cameron's green standing, it could also scupper plans for a higher target.

David Cameron must now show the type of green leadership he demonstrated in opposition when he backed Friends of the Earth's call for a new climate change law.

He must tell his MEPs the European Union should take the lead on this issue and highlight the huge economic benefits that it will bring. Cutting energy waste and developing the region's huge green energy potential could create millions of jobs.

Failure to support the proposals for stronger climate action will undo much of the hard work that David Cameron and others have put into modernising the Tory party.

A vote against tougher action on climate change is a vote against him.

Martyn Williams is senior parliamentary campaigner for Friends of the Earth

The opinions in's Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.