Paris climate deal ‘top priority’ for UK Labour Party

A Labour government would prioritise a global climate deal in Paris, shadow minister promises in speech

Shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle

Shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle

By Megan Darby

Achieving a global climate deal in Paris would be “top priority” for Labour if elected next year, UK shadow environment secretary Maria Eagle has promised.

The consequences of a Conservative victory would be “dire”, she said, in the first speech to outline Labour’s position on climate change for the 2015 general election.

Speaking at the WWF UK head office in Woking, she accused prime minister David Cameron’s government of “indifference, inaction and hostility” on climate change.

In contrast, she insisted Labour would offer “real leadership”.

Eagle said: “No sensible government can govern in these challenging times without putting tackling climate change at the core of what they do.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband and shadow energy secretary Caroline understand that, she added.

Miliband last month told party activists “I deeply care about climate change” following a speech in which he called for an end to “photo-op politics”.

He criticised prime minister David Cameron for apparently turning his back on green issues since his famous “hug-a-husky” photoshoot in the Arctic in 2006.

David Cameron took a trip to the Arctic before he became prime minister (Source: WWF)

David Cameron took a trip to the Arctic to see the effects of global warming  before he became prime minister (Source: WWF)

Eagle was on the same trip to Norway, organised by WWF, to examine the impacts of climate change.

She was pleased to see Cameron say the Conservatives understood the threat of climate change, she said.

“But the reality has been different. David Cameron has gone from wanting to lead ‘the greenest government ever’ to ditching ‘the green crap’.”

Eagle cited the appointment of Owen Paterson as environment secretary, who was sacked in a reshuffle last month.

Since leaving office, Paterson has agreed to address an influential climate sceptic forum and set up a think-tank that will campaign to cut climate change regulation.

“Can a denier of climate change be a suitable environment secretary for the self-styled ‘greenest government ever’?” Eagle asked. “I think not.”

Global leadership

In 2012 chancellor George Osborne, reportedly referred to the green lobby as the “environmental Taliban”, while in 2013 Michael Fallon, an energy minister until the last reshuffle, dismissed climate change as “theology”.

With “increasingly credible rumours” that Conservative backbenchers want to repeal the Climate Change Act, Eagle said the chance of UK ministers contributing positively to a climate deal in Paris was “virtually none”.

She criticised Paterson over cuts to his department’s climate adaptation budget and handling of last winter’s flooding.

Labour would produce a new climate change adaptation plan and prioritise preventative flood spending, Eagle said. It will also create a national framework for low emissions zones to tackle air pollution.

The choice at the next election is between “a Labour Government committed to working hard to get a global deal on limiting emissions in Paris next December or a Tory Government divided internally about whether it believes in climate change at all,” Eagle concluded.

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