Failure to Lead by Example

It appears I was a few hours slow off the mark when I wrote my blog on the Europe vote yesterday.  A couple of minutes after I had pressed ‘publish’, I clicked on to Twitter to see a tweet from Friends of the Earth informing the social networking world that the majority of our MEPs had voted against the report to strengthen carbon cuts.  In Brussels, 326 votes overwhelmed 317 votes for the motion.  Reports stated that 74 MEPs from the European People’s Party and the European Conservatives and Reformists had managed to water down the bill to such a level that MEP Bas Eickhout, who had drafted the report, felt forced to vote against it, remarking that the new report would be a step back from the previous agreement.  Without wading through the mire of details of both reports, I cannot assess whether this is accurate.  Environmental Organisations still seem to be disappointed at the news which leaves Europe with its obsolete 20% goals.  But whether the bill failed due to lack of support, or because it had been so far corrupted from its primary ideals, doesn’t really make much odds: either which way it shows clearly Europe’s lack of determination to tackle climate change effectively.

However, the quick report I read by FOE England stated that the majority of UK MEPs had voted against the motion with different motivation: not because the bill was too weak, but on the basis that they would vote for it if other countries showed the initiative first.  As I stated in comment form, just managing to reign in my inclination to rant, this is absolutely ridiculous.  The idea is either a good one or it is not.  If it is worth voting for then vote for it.  If it is not, do not.  Waiting for other countries to show leadership on this subject is more than childish – it is pathetic.  Again, we are back to playground games, the like of which were played at Copenhagen, Cancun, and just about every COP* there has been.  I am sure I am not the only one to feel that more bitching and name-calling goes on at these summits than progress and agreements.  In fact, it appears that, time after time, the opportunity to talk is taken up with this childlike behaviour, until on the final day, feeling the need to agree on something, the UNFCCC** announce that they have come to a consensus, normally that climate change is real, dangerous, and we need to do something about it.  Someday.

Given the negative tones that emulated from our UK MEPs before the vote, I assume this failure was based on economic interests, committing the near-sighted error of believing that business growth is more important than global warming, and that making stronger green legislation must be at the expense of business growth.  Both of these assumptions have been shown to be incorrect.  Firstly, by mere common sense we should be able to follow the fact that if extreme global warming is allowed to take place, business will be far from the top of the agenda as the will to survive takes over as our predominant urge.  Secondly, reports, such as the Stern report, showed that the affects of climate change are likely to be far more costly than steps taken to avoid climate change.  Cutting carbon does not have to mean the end of business growth, it means taking business in a different direction.  It means directing funds to carbon free innovation, a direction we are going to have to move in, sooner or later.  We live on an island rich with sustainable resources, in an economy that can afford to make green commitments.  Yet, the MEPs that represent us have refused to take any form of leadership on climate change.  Undoubtedly, Europe will finance the green bank; send aid to those who survive the floods and grain to those suffering famine, but this is like offering an ineffective plaster when we stood by and allowed the injury to happen in the first place, and the injury of climate change means death, starvation, drought, flooding, extreme weather patterns, wars of attrition, mass extinction and a new hostile world.  But in the UK, we’re not going to do anything about this.  Not unless someone else does something first…

*Conference Of the Parties.  Copenhagen was COP15.  This year, Durban will host COP17 in December.

**United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

About EcoTheme

Welcome to EcoTheme. I’m from the the county of Dorset in the South West of England. Having studied environmental ethics and written a Masters dissertation on the ethics of sustainable living I now work with Campaign against Climate Change and Greenpeace. I started EcoTheme to present discussion and views on things going on in the environmental world. It should become clear through my posts that I believe our environmental problems to be the most pressing matters of the day – not simply because I place value in our natural world but also because it is the platform on which all life depends.
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