Last week saw the final Strasbourg plenary session before Brexit. The last time that UK MEPs travelled to this small town on the Franco-German border for late-night political discussions, negotiations and votes on proposals aimed at improving the lives of European citizens. A sombre backdrop to the many good news stories that came out of the week’s plenary proceedings, not least around the climate.
Strasbourg & Green Victories
The big thing that happened last week, was the European Parliament’s resolution on the European Green Deal. As I’ve previously written, the European Green Deal is the new Commission’s flagship programme: a huge package of political reforms aimed at making the EU carbon-neutral by 2050 at the latest.
After the Commission published its first communication on the reform package in December, it was now Parliament’s turn to say its piece on what the Green Deal should contain. I’m happy to say that we managed to secure a hugely ambitious text, significantly improving on the Commission’s proposal. Among our Green victories were:
- Strong text on the urgent need for ambitious climate action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
- EU Member States should adopt intermediate and long-term targets for both renewables and energy efficiency.
- Underlining the need for the green transition to be a just one, and to focus support programmes on especially vulnerable localities, such as coal-mining regions.
- Calls for EU industrial strategy to be inextricably linked to a circular economy action plan, and for the elimination of planned obsolescence.
- An amendment on the necessity of nuclear energy to tackle the climate crisis was voted down.
Us Greens managed to include many of our amendments in the resolution and I’m going to miss this when we’re gone – the power and purpose of a large Green presence in Parliament. The outcome really shows that a strong green voice in European politics has a concrete impact.
I also managed to do some personal lobbying on climate action this week. On Tuesday, I had a meeting with the Commissioner responsible for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans. Apart from discussing the reforms needed to tackle the climate crisis, I also gave him a copy of my report on The Green New Deal in the North West, to help inform his work.
On Monday, the Parliament debated the devastating and tragic bushfires in Australia. The link between climate change and extreme weather events like this was clear in many statements made by Commission representatives and MEPs. It’s commendable that even Conservative politicians on the EU level seem to be waking up to the fact that we are in a climate crisis. We can only hope that our UK Conservative government will follow the example of our European colleagues in this regard. Or at least that we must continue to lobby and push for policy to match reality.
Citizens’ Rights Post-Brexit
There are over three-and-a-half-million EU citizens living in the UK, and around one-and-a-half million UK citizens living in the EU. After Brexit, we have to ensure that citizens’ rights of both these groups are properly protected and that they are treated fairly and lawfully.
These issues were the subject in Parliament for Tuesday’s debate. I spoke about the difficulties that many EU citizens in the UK are already facing when it comes to applying for settled status.
The UK government claims that the process should take one-to-four days, but many people have to wait for far longer than that. The uncertainty, stress and difficulties that waiting months for a decision on settlement status brings, is unacceptable. Leaving people without essential documentation and rendering them unable to get jobs or rent a home.
The UK government must uphold its commitments to protect citizens’ rights. We must ensure that everyone is treated fairly and that the quagmire of Brexit does not contribute to more uncertainty and anxiety for EU and UK citizens than it already has.
If you want to see my speech, it is available here.
Palestine: Stopping EU Complicity in War Crimes
This week I also published an opinion piece in Middle East Eye, on how the EU is funnelling millions of euros of taxpayers’ money to Israeli weapons manufacturers. A new report shows that the EU’s current research programme has handed out around nine million euros to Israeli defence companies Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries.
In the article, I argue that the EU is putting its reputation as a credible and trustworthy partner to both parties of the Israel-Palestine conflict at risk by financing these companies.
The EU also counteracts its own policies towards Israel by funding companies that provide the Israeli military with much of its hardware. Arguably making the EU complicit in the oppression of Palestinians and the undermining of international law.
Meanwhile this week…
Despite a sense of sadness at leaving, I am so very grateful to have had this incredible experience of being the Green MEP for the North West; it’s been an honour and an inspiration. I am particularly proud of our The Green New Deal for the North West report that can be used as a framework after we leave the EU and I am looking forward to launching our Sustainable and Active Transport for the North West report this coming Friday – both have ideas that I will continue to champion in my work as a Councillor. Armed with the research and experience, we can continue to make clear just how much our region could benefit from a green future with quality jobs and improvements in all aspects of our lives:
After our final visit to Strasbourg this week as UK MEPs, I’m more disappointed than ever that we are deliberately breaking away from collaboration and cooperation with this huge block of our nearest neighbours. This is not just about quality trade in goods and services with an underpinning agreement to protect the environment and working standards, but also a relationship in a whole range of other endeavours that EU countries together undertake: to deal with global problems from the climate crisis, to social inequality to addressing the challenges of the digitisation of the economy. Such a desperate shame.
Where hope lies:
Soil getting the attention it deserves. I wrote recently for the Ecologist that:
“The North of England has experienced the largest increase in flooding in Europe – flood levels have increased by 11 per cent, per decade, since 1960. Promoting and increasing healthy woodlands and restoration of peat bogs will help to ’slow the flow’ of water up-stream, reducing the risks of flooding to our towns and cities.”
And this week we see in the UK media, some reasons to believe this is finally being taken seriously:
“The commitment will be part of the biggest shake-up of British agriculture in 40 years and requires a regular report to MPs outlining supply sources and household expenditure on food, as well as consumer confidence in food safety.
“Other changes include a stronger emphasis on the soil, at risk from overuse, erosion and nutrient loss; farmers are to receive help maintaining healthy soils, as well as with improvements to the tracing of livestock movements between farms. There will be powers to regulate fertiliser use and organic farming after Brexit.”