Roger Helmer: MEPs Put Lunch Before Climate Change

Last month, the European parliament was due to vote on a proposal to increase the EU’s 2020 emissions reduction target from 20% to 30% — the Eickhout Report. In London, the Coalition is committed to support the 30% figure (perhaps as a concession to the Lib-Dems).

Before the vote, those diligent folk at the Guardian — Fiona Harvey this time, not Leo Hickman — were on the e-mail to Tory MEPs asking how we were going to vote. In fact we MEPs have always taken a pragmatic view of these issues. Our current delegation leader Martin Callanan, a very sound man, sits on the environment committee, and as rapporteur was instrumental in getting a settlement on vehicle emissions which was tolerable to Rolls, Bentley, Jaguar and Land Rover.

My view is that I oppose all emissions restrictions. Martin’s much more measured approach is that we are happy to support the 30% figure, just so long as the rest of the world gives the same commitment. Until then, we vote NO.

The Guardian built up a story of a huge row between Cameron and his MEPs. Downing Street enforcers were going to beat up on us. But it didn’t look like that from our end. There were a few amicable conversations with London in which each side understood the other’s position.

I had been asked to appear on the BBC’s Daily Politics Show on this issue, and had to duck out of voting for ten minutes to do so (missing a key vote on EU financial regulation, as it happened) to talk on camera. They had tried to get a Minister to speak for the 30% policy, but had to settle for Duncan Hames, Lib-Dem MP for Chippenham.

Did I oppose 30% because of economic concerns, or because I didn’t believe in man-made climate change? asked Andrew Neil. “Actually”, I replied, “because it’s bad for the environment”.

A 30% emissions target would drive up energy prices in the EU. Jobs and production and investment would move out of the EU, and into other jurisdictions with lower environmental standards. We’d replace a ton of CO2 in the UK with two tons in China. That would do no one any good — except the Chinese.

Hames replied that I was way behind the curve, as (he said) I didn’t know about the huge investment the Chinese were making in renewables. Oh yes I do, Duncan! I didn’t get chance to come back on that one, but Andrew Neil made the point anyway. The Chinese are indeed putting a big investment into renewables — so that they can sell PV systems to the gullible West. For their own use, they’re building a new coal-fired power station every week, and no nonsense about carbon capture and storage.

I pointed out that higher energy bills would drive a million more households into fuel poverty, and that pensioners would die — literally die of cold — because of our policies. Hames flannelled on about something called “the green deal”, and insisted that energy prices were only going up because of global oil prices. Again, Neil shot him down before I could get back. “Global energy prices are going up, but renewables subsidies are driving them up even faster”. Dead right. Hames also tried to make a point about developing our green economy and creating green jobs, apparently unaware that a number of recent studies show that each “green job” destroys several real jobs in the real economy, and that green jobs tend to be short-lived.

Neil asked if I had been leant on by Downing Street enforcers. I told him that I’d heard nothing from London, but would let him know if the position changed. Then Joan Bakewell chipped in (she was there on a different topic). Green policies were for the long term, she said, and we mustn’t be distracted by short-term impacts. Paraphrase: if a few thousand more pensioners die of cold, it doesn’t matter too much. And remember, Joan: if we don’t have a short term, we sure as hell won’t have a long term.

Joan Bakewell used to be the thinking man’s crumpet. Now she seems to be the green zealot’s apologist.

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