UK Politics

Climate change: Greens say scientific debate 'is over'

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Media captionGreen Party leader Natalie Bennett: "Fracking is an issue that I'm convinced we will win on"

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett says the scientific debate about climate change "is over" and has pledged to put the issue "front and centre" of her party's European election campaign.

Extreme weather in the UK and elsewhere showed the "enormous threat" from climate change could not be ignored, she told the party's spring conference.

Each EU state should have its own national renewables target, she added.

She also said the party "stood by" anti-fracking protesters.

The Green Party of England and Wales, which Ms Bennett has led since 2012, currently has two MEPs.

In her speech to party members in Liverpool, Ms Bennett said a swing of 1.6% in May's election would treble the number of Green MEPs in Europe, giving them more power to argue for policies they believe will work for "the common good".

'More receptive'

After a winter of floods and amid fears about the impact of fracking on communities, she said she was convinced that the public were more receptive than ever to the party's message.

"After the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported last year, the scientific debate is over," she said.

"Each individual case is weather but Britain's record winter rainfall, the massive droughts in California and Latin America, Australia's heatwaves, come together to deliver a powerful message that climate change is a reality here with us today.

"Its threat is enormous and can no longer be ignored."

In its report in October, the UN body said it was 95% certain that humans have been the "dominant cause" of global warming since the 1950s.

The Greens have said any cabinet minister or government adviser who does not agree with the "scientific consensus" about climate change should be removed from office.

The European Union, added Ms Bennett, must take the lead in pushing for binding energy efficiency standards and a global target of a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.

More broadly, she said the UK must play an active role with a reformed EU in which there was much more local input in decision-making.

'Camping out'

On fracking, she praised the stance taken by her predecessor, Green MP Caroline Lucas - who was arrested this year during a protest about shale gas drilling in West Sussex.

"Fracking is an issue I am convinced we will win on - in small part due to the logic of our position, in larger part due to the strength, passion and determination of our anti-fracking protesters," she said. "They are standing up to disgracefully aggressive policing, camping out through storm and flooding, and we stand with them."

The Greens gained five council seats in last May's local elections in England and the party has run Brighton and Hove City Council as a minority administration since 2011.

Although the party only has one MP, Ms Bennett says it deserves a place in any leaders' debates held before the next general election.

"If you think about bringing the railways back into public hands, if you think about the living wage, both of those have about 75% public support.

"If you think about keeping the NHS publicly owned and publicly run, that's got something like 90% public support. We represent views that absolutely must be at the table in those debates."

Speaking later on Friday, Green Party MEP Jean Lambert said the party and its allies had achieved a lot in the European Parliament over the past five years and provided a distinctive voice on issues ranging from energy to public services.

"From capping bankers' bonuses to protecting workers' rights, we are at the forefront of the battle for a fairer society. The next few years are crucial for the future of Europe - whether we move towards increased division or enjoy our diversity."

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