European Parliament splits over climate emergency motion

Pascal Canfin, the chairman of the European Parliament's environment committee, has tabled a draft resolution calling for a climate emergency to be declared at EU level. [© European Union 2019 - Source : EP]

Green lawmakers in the European Parliament have lashed out against a draft motion tabled by centrist MEPs that suggested declaring a climate emergency in Europe, tabling their own motion in response to what they denounced as a “PR-stunt”.

All major political parties have now tabled competing resolutions after the chairman of the European Parliament’s environment committee, Pascal Canfin, tabled a motion last week calling for a climate emergency to be declared in Europe.

The motion, endorsed by Canfin’s centrist Renew Europe group, was scheduled to be voted on Thursday at the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg.

But with five competing motions now on the table, it is unclear whether any one of them will be voted at all.

“I appeal on the responsibility of all lawmakers. This is not a partisan issue,” Canfin said on Monday as he addressed lawmakers in Strasbourg. “This is a question of collective responsibility. We must vote, as others have done, on the climate and environmental emergency.”

Others see it differently, however.

“Our house is on fire,” said Michael Bloss, a German MEP from the Greens political group. “The science is clear and the facts overwhelming. That is why it is right to declare the European climate emergency,” he said.

“But words alone are not enough. The declaration of a climate emergency must be followed by action,” Bloss said, warning that “the climate emergency must not degenerate into a pure PR-stunt”.

On Friday (22 November), the Greens tabled their own resolution, calling on the EU to raise its emissions reduction target to a 65% cut by 2030, up from the 50-55% currently envisaged by the incoming European Commission of Ursula von der Leyen. The leftist GUE faction raised the stakes even further, calling for a 70% emission cut by 2030.

Renew Europe’s resolution did not include targets although Canfin told EURACTIV last week he would defend a 55% target for 2030 as a minimum.

Pascal Canfin MEP: Time to declare climate emergency in Europe

The MEP chairing the European Parliament’s environment committee has called on the Assembly to declare climate emergency at the next plenary session in November. “It would be important to do it at that time,” he told EURACTIV in a wide-ranging interview.

For their part, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the largest faction in the EU assembly, has tabled a motion calling for Europe to declare climate “urgency” instead of “emergency”.

The reason, according to one EU Parliamentary source, is that the German translation of climate emergency has a negative connotation meaning all hope is lost.

The draft EPP motion otherwise reflects the German government’s go-slow approach on climate policy, calling for “holistic” measures “involving all sectors of society and the economy, including industry, in a socially balanced and sustainable way in order not to endanger jobs or put an undue burden on those least able to afford it.”

In the environmental community, activists were in two minds. While they hailed the political momentum behind climate action, they also called for concrete measures to be adopted beyond political declarations.

“Five years ago no one would have expected the European Parliament to declare a climate emergency, so there’s some progress,” said Sebastian Mang, a clean energy campaigner at Greenpeace.

“But our house is on fire and it’s not enough to stand by and talk about how bad the blaze is. Drastic cuts in emissions – made possible via immediate measures across all sectors – must be part of any declaration,” he said.

All five draft resolutions can be downloaded here: EPP, S&D, Renew Europe, Greens, GUE/NGL.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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