The UK must regain its leadership on climate change - by staying at the European table
Former Energy Secretary, Lib Dem MP Sir Ed Davey writes: "The Liberal Democrats have been at the forefront on climate change – calling for a net-zero target since 2007 long before Labour or the Tories – and we intend to stay there".
It’s an odd time in British politics. Despite Brexit dominating and paralysing debate, the climate crisis has fantastically managed to force its way through towards the top of people’s concerns.
Thanks to the protests of young people - spearheaded by the amazing Greta Thunberg - and then the efforts of Extinction Rebellion, there has been a dramatic increase in awareness that our world is facing an environmental catastrophe - an existential threat.
Given Brexit and how we tackle climate change are inextricably tied together, it is right we debate these together - and recognise the link.
For if we really want to solve the climate crisis, it requires international action, led by Europe-wide action.
And the record shows, the EU has led climate action internationally to date. Moreover, before this current Brexit Government, it was Britain leading Europe to be more ambitious. And it was Liberal Democrat Ministers in the Coalition leading Britain to be more ambitious at the European Union table.
When I was Climate Change Secretary, I led the UK's negotiations on climate change at the EU and the United Nations. In 2014, we secured legally binding targets on all 28 EU countries to cut greenhouse gases by at least 40% by 2030. That victory was critical for achieving the UN's historic Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015.
Without the UK at the negotiating table, those EU targets would have been less ambitious and the Paris Agreement would have been much weaker. Now the Liberal Democrats believe the UK, EU and UN must be even more ambitious.
Yet if Britain leaves the EU, we leave Europe's key climate talks. We cannot influence 27 other countries on climate change, without a UK seat at the European table and therefore we will witness our influence on the world - through the EU - dramatically reduced.
That is why the Liberal Democrat manifesto for the European elections calls for Europe to adopt a "net zero greenhouse gas emissions target" - and meet it by 2050, at the very latest.
Cutting emissions to net-zero is vital if we are to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius and we must act now.
During the Coalition, Liberal Democrats put climate change at the heart of Government. We expanded the amount of clean energy on the grid, created a Green Investment Bank – to finance new green projects – and negotiated EU wide targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
But since Liberal Democrats left Government the Tories have abandoned climate change as a major issue. We’ve seen subsidies for renewable energy slashed, the Green Investment Bank privatised, the abandonment of a zero-carbon homes law, a super-weak target of 2040 set for the phase out of new petrol and diesel cars - all while pursuing a major new push on fracking. This doesn’t seem like the actions of Government serious about tackling climate change.
The UK must stand out from the crowd and once again become the world leader in tackling climate change, we know we can be. And the UK must take responsibility for the global damage we’ve caused over the last century.
Liberal Democrats would not shy away from the difficult decisions that need to be made. We need a Government that places climate change at the heart of its decision making, not one that just pays it lip service. The Liberal Democrats have been at the forefront on climate change – calling for a net-zero target since 2007 long before Labour or the Tories – and we intend to stay there.
And we also understand that to truly tackle climate change, a global issue, we cannot act alone. Whilst the two major parties continue to waste time having internal fights and splits over Brexit, they are ignoring the other big issues facing our country.
This is one of the most, if not the most, popular reasons why people want to stop Brexit – we should be leading and not leaving as Gordon Brown famously said during the referendum campaign.
As the national Stop Brexit Party - and the party with the strongest record tackling climate change - the best way to meet these key vital goals is to vote Liberal Democrat in the EU elections on the 23rd May.
Ed Davey is the Lib Dem MP for Kingston and Surbiton & a former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change