Britain's Conservative MEPs are poised to deliver an embarrassing rejection of the Government's global warming stance today in a European Parliament vote on toughening climate targets.
Many if not most of the 26 Brussels Tories are likely to vote against the proposal that the European Union should tighten its climate policy from a proposed 20 per cent cut in CO2 emissions by 2020, to a 30 per cent cut.
The shift from 20 to 30 per cent is the centrepiece of the Government’s current climate agenda – it is in the Coalition document, and the British ministers have been campaigning for it with other EU countries – and a rejection of it by the Tory MEPs will be seen as a personal snub to David Cameron. Furthernore, it is quite possible that their votes could make the difference between the proposal being won or lost.
If it is lost it will be another blow to Europe’s attempts to boost its position ahead of the next global climate conference which takes place in Durban, South Africa, in December. Two weeks ago Poland single-handedly blocked the EU’s first attempt at agreeing on the shift from 20 to 30 per cent, saying such a move would be too damaging to Polish industry.
This week Poland took over the six-month rotating presidency of Europe, which gives it substantial power to decide the EU business agenda for the rest of the year – meaning that the climate change issue is likely to be considerably downplayed.
The essence of the Polish problem is that the country is Europe’s biggest user of coal, the heaviest producer of the carbon dioxide emissions which scientists believe are causing the earth’s climate to warm. So from Poland’s point of view, with the country using coal to generate more than 90 per cent of its electricity, the effect of any Europe-wide major cutback on CO2 will fall on Polish domestic industry disproportionately.
Furthermore, Poland imports the great majority of its natural gas and oil from its touchy neighbour Russia, so it is even more reluctant for any quick shift away from its coal dependency.
However, the Polish stance is in stark contrast to the view of a growing number of EU member states, led by Britain, France and Germany, who feel the present EU target for cutting CO2 is inadequate to prevent dangerous climate change, and want the improvement to a 2020 reduction of 30 per cent.