Looking forward to voting in 2014? No, I don’t mean the independence referendum in Scotland. I mean the European elections on 22 May.
So, does this election matter? I’d say it does. But, in 2009, for 71.5% of Scottish people, it didn’t matter enough to vote. However, if you’re interested in the kind of things we’re interested in – healthy rivers and seas, protected habitats, halting illegal logging or fishing, or action on climate change – it probably should.
Did you know that about 80% of our environmental legislation derives from Europe?
Last year, WWF-UK and others commissioned a study looking at what the EU has delivered for the environment since the 1970s. It concluded that EU environmental legislation and policies have raised the bar to improve management and protection of our natural habitats and wildlife, and stimulate low carbon industries and greener economies.
So, what does that mean for you and me?
It means that, whether you like it or not, it was our MEPs who signed off the Common Fisheries Policy reform, enshrining a target to fish at sustainable levels. It was our MEPs who helped fix 2020 as a date by which we would achieve healthy and productive seas. It was our MEPs who helped bring about a 2020 target for renewable electricity, greenhouse gas emissions reductions and energy efficiency. It was our MEPs who helped safeguard thousands of rare and endangered species in protected areas. As our report concludes, ‘one of the most notable achievements of the European Union has been to create a widely respected framework of environmental and climate policies.’
With the passing of the Lisbon Treaty, the role of our representatives in the European Parliament is greater than ever before. This is why WWF is engaging with top MEP candidates across Europe to ensure that future MEPs understand our issues, and fight for decisions that are good for the environment. Much progress has been made in the past, but we must ensure that future MEPs do not allow environmental issues to take a back seat.
Do you know your MEPs?
We currently have six MEPs in Scotland – SNP’s Alyn Smith, Labour’s Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Liberal Democrat’s George Lyon, SNP’s Ian Hudghton, and the Conservatives’ Struan Stevenson. With the exception of the latter, who has Ian Duncan to step into his shoes, they are all fighting to re-gain their seats, along with Green candidate Maggie Chapman and top UKIP candidate David Coburn.
WWF Scotland is asking them, in their manifestos for 2014, to stand up for the environment and;
- Ensure the 2020 targets for renewables, greenhouse gas emissions reductions and energy efficiency are met;
- Push for ambitious climate and energy targets for 2030;
- Secure an end to overfishing and delivery of sustainable fish stocks;
- Champion the protection and restoration of marine ecosystems.
Scotland’s MEPs have played a huge role in championing, strengthening and delivering strong environmental policies in the past. We have a good story to tell our European colleagues on the measures we have taken to steward our fish stocks for the longer term, how over 40% of our electricity demand now comes from renewables, and how we passed an ambitious Climate Change Act in 2009.
Any reason why MEPs do this?
Because in 2011, 95% of EU citizens thought that protecting the environment was important, and 81% felt that European environmental legislation is necessary to protect the environment.
This May, WWF is calling on Scottish parties and Scottish candidates to represent Scotland’s environmental ambitions and commit to strong action on the environment in the next Parliament.
So, if you want a Europe and a planet where people live in harmony with nature, then raise your voice, engage with the MEP candidates, and use your vote on 22 May.
To register to vote, please visit the Electoral Commission website.
What do you think about the European elections? Will you be voting? Leave a comment below.