Lib Dems to press for tougher EU-wide commitment to curb climate change if Brexit stopped

Exclusive: 'Anyone who wants to stop our climate crisis should vote to stop Brexit', party says - pushing Brussels to wipe out contributions to global warming by 2050

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 05 May 2019 15:14
Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg tells Extinction Rebellion supporters 'humanity is at a crossroads'

An EU-wide commitment to wipe out contributions to global warming by 2050 will be at the heart of the Liberal Democrat manifesto for the European elections.

Vince Cable’s party will vow to press for much tougher restrictions to end net greenhouse gas emissions across the bloc within 30 years – if Brexit is stopped.

Currently, the EU is only pledged to 40 per cent reductions by 2030, an ambition overtaken by calls for emissions to end altogether in order to prevent runaway climate change.

That target was negotiated in 2014, when Ed Davey, a Lib Dem, led the UK negotiations – helping to pave the way for the landmark global Paris Climate Treaty a year later.

Now the party will demand the EU goes much further, on the back of its stunning local election successes which have raised hopes for the European Parliament polls on 23 May.

“Anyone who wants to stop our climate crisis should vote to stop Brexit,” Sir Ed, a former climate change secretary, told The Independent.

“If Britain leaves the EU, we leave Europe's key climate talks. We cannot influence 27 other countries on climate change without a seat at the table and therefore we will witness the influence we have on the world through the EU dramatically reduced.”

Pointing to 704 gains, which made the Lib Dems the town hall winners last Thursday, he added: “It's now clear that to stop Brexit people need to vote Liberal Democrat.”

The move follows last week’s call by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) for the UK to act “now” to enact a legally binding duty to achieve net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The blueprint would mean the end of petrol and diesel cars and gas boilers, a drastic cut in people's meat consumption, and the planting of at least 1.5 billion trees.

The target is for net zero emissions because greenhouse gases from some activities, including air travel and farming, will remain unavoidable by 2050.

These would be balanced by taking carbon out of the air by growing trees or burying carbon dioxide below ground level.

Theresa May was criticised by environmental groups when her spokesman, quizzed by The Independent, refused to commit to acting immediately.

Downing Street said only that she will “respond urgently” to the call for new laws - pointing to the need to examine a “long and detailed” report first.

John Gummer, the CCC's chairman, had called for the zero-emissions target for 2050 to be made law immediately, saying: “We must do it now. The urgency is not just a matter of a shortness of time - the quicker you do it the cheaper it is.”

The Liberal Democrats are also calling for a UK target of net zero emissions by 2045 – five years earlier than the CCC proposal and the party’s aim for the EU as a whole.

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