The EU plays a significant role in facilitating Scotland’s leadership on climate change and energy issues. At the Paris Summit the sense of excitement was palpable, and while it is acknowledged that America and China paved the way for the Paris Summit, it was the EU negotiators work with the developing nations which clinched the deal.
EU funds are helping Scotland to build a low-carbon economy. For example, renewable energy projects in Orkney, Shetland and Caithness recently received almost E.18m of funding from the European Regional Development Fund.
Beatrice offshore wind farm in the Moray Firth received £525 million from the European Investment Bank, supported by the EU Fund for Strategic Investments. This was the single largest investment in an offshore wind investment by the EU, and will bring 100 jobs to rural East Scotland as part of a just transition. Between 2014 and 2020 communities, the environment and enterprises across Scotland stand to benefit from almost £750 million form the European Structural Funds.
Bruegel, a Brussels based think tank argues that, “Individual member states cannot meaningfully support a sufficiently large portfolio of technologies necessary to ensure resilient decarbonisation.” It would be very serious to leave when the EU is in the midst of developing energy infrastructure.
Globally we are at a time when America and China are pressing for co-ordination. President Xi Jin Ping is arguing for a “proposed global energy network with an intercontinental backbone grid to enable the world to obtain 80% of its energy from renewables.”
As Lord Deben Chair of the UK Committee on Climate Change has said “Europe is about gaining sovereignty as it allows us to face environmental issues.” Gordon Brown, in his book Britain Leading not Leaving, said, “in the confused and hostile debate within the UK, ideas can all too easily be twisted out of shape. Co-operation for common purposes does not mean the imposition of uniformity.” He argues that diversity is the way forward for renewable energy.
The EU is ahead of most of the world measured by energy per unit of output our carbon emissions per capita are half those of the US. This all gives us the clout to lead as Europeans in global negotiations.
Scotland’s farmers and rural economy will receive £4.5 billion between 2014 and 2020 thanks to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. The EU has also facilitated agri-environment schemes, which farmers participate in for the benefit of us all. The Common Fisheries Policy has resulted in the recovery of cod populations, a fish that once we thought was lost to overfishing.
Marine Protected Areas were enacted by the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 due to international obligations under the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The Birds and Habitats Directives also call for a network of protected areas, and this relates to MPAs too. All of these EU directives have been instrumental in benefiting the health of our seas.
As co-operators, we believe that “by the strength of our common endeavour, we achieve more than we achieve alone.” It is that fundamental belief in the power of people acting together – working to overcome problems and improve their lives – that motivated the founders of the first co-operatives, and which drives our work today.
Scotland has taken world leading steps to influence the rest of the UK and EU on climate change and environmental issues. Outside the EU, a future Tory government could continue to seek to undermine our commitment to tackling climate change.
Some of those campaigning to leave have made clear their opposition to European environmental legislation, which of course, has improved the quality of everything from our beaches to the air we breathe.
This week I spoke at a SERA Remain rally, at which there was a dynamic discussion about why left leaning environmentalists thought it was right to remain. The rally was chaired by Sarah Boyack, who highlighted how much of Scottish Parliament legislation has come from European directives on the environment, from her time as Transport Minister. Evan Williams highlighted the energy use of computer games, and how the collective force strengthened the position in negotiations with SONY. He also used the Danube to paint a picture – a river that flows through 10 countries, once subject to 10 individual and varying environmental legislative efforts. It is thanks to the collaborative nature and progressive strides of EU legislation that today the Blue Danube is restored as a diverse habitat and place for recreation.
I hope on Thursday you will vote for Britain to REMAIN part of the EU.