MEPs are this week calling for the EU to declare a “climate emergency”, days after a network of climate science deniers held a hearing in the European Parliament claiming the exact opposite, hosted by the EU grouping to which the UK’s Conservative Party belongs.
Lawmakers from centrist and left-leaning parties backed the climate emergency proposal in a debate yesterday evening, ahead of the upcoming UN climate summit due to start in Madrid next week.
The motion will be put to a vote on Thursday, when MEPs will also consider plans for an EU-wide 2050 “net zero” emissions target.
The UK made a similar declaration in June, but has been criticised by climate activists for not sufficiently putting words into action.
Miguel Arias Cañete, EU Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action, argued during the debate that the “interdependent environmental and climate crisis” needed to be addressed with the “utmost urgency”.
“Fires have raged from the Amazon to Siberia; heatwaves, droughts and cyclones are affecting billions of people throughout the world. Climate change and biodiversity losses are already affecting critical life systems on earth, threatening the livelihood of many,” Cañete said.
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But newly-elected Brexit Party MEP Matthew Patten used the opportunity to criticise the Parliament for its convention of moving between Brussels and Strasbourg each month, which he called “stupid”.
“There’s no climate emergency in this place – just a lot of hot air,” he said.
DeSmog revealed earlier this month that climate science denial and resistance to climate policy are widespread in the Brexit Party.
Patten’s view was apparently shared by the organisers of an event in Brussels last week entitled “There is no climate emergency,” sponsored by the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group of MEPs.
The hearing on 20 November was coordinated by a Netherlands-based group called the Climate Intelligence Foundation (Clintel), whose “World Climate Declaration” states that “CO2 is plant food” and claims there is “no cause for panic or alarm” about climate change.
A video promoted by the UK’s principal climate science denial campaign group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), shows the Liberal Democrat MEP Irina von Wiese challenging the organisers. One of the co-founders of Clintel then claims that recent reports by the IPCC, the UN’s expert climate advisory body, say there is “no [upward] trend in hurricanes and droughts and floods”.
This is despite a major IPCC report last October stating that “Trends in intensity and frequency of some climate and weather extremes have been detected” since 1950.
The GWPF has also backed calls by the European Climate Realist Network, a coalition of climate science denial groups, for MEPs to oppose the declaration of a climate emergency, which it calls “unilateral virtue signalling”.
Plans for a European-wide campaign by Clintel were leaked to DeSmog in September and Italian members of the network held a similar event in the Italian Senate last month.
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Ellie Chowns, who taught International Development at Birmingham University before becoming a Green Party MEP in June, also attended the session.
She told DeSmog: “I find it jaw-droppingly extraordinary – and frankly outrageous – that the Conservative Party’s political group in the European Parliament last week hosted a climate change denial meeting. What planet are they living on? This shows the Conservative Party’s true colours. They are not just failing to take the climate action we need, they are actively promoting lies and denial.”
“I know there are many Conservative voters who do care about the future of our children, and who will be horrified by their party’s involvement with climate denial,” she added.
The ECR and Clintel did not respond to a request for comment.
Updated 27/11/2019 to include information on the European Climate Realist Network.
Image credit: Ellie Chowns