If you care about the 21st century, vote for Europe!

People across the European Union are going to the polls on 22 May. But why does Europe matter?

Camilla Toulmin's picture
Insight by 
Camilla Toulmin
22 May 2014
People will place their vote in the European Parliament elections on 22 May

People will place their vote in the European Parliament elections on 22 May

For the past few weeks, the papers in Britain have reported that the UK Independence Party (UKIP) is likely to win the largest share of the vote in this month's European Parliamentary elections. Despite knowing that European elections are often a chance for beating up the mainstream political parties, on this occasion we seem to be sleep-walking towards a break up of both the UK and European Union (EU), and dishing our chances of getting a climate change deal. 

What will this mean for Britain's future role in Europe, and the wider world? Given UKIP's scepticism on climate change, how will a big vote in its favour affect the Conservative party's commitment to an ambitious climate deal, and a good showing at the UN secretary general's climate summit on 23 September in New York?

Europe is our neighbourhood and we need to be in it ever more in a world where UK power continues to diminish. The EU has been key in getting European countries to take climate change seriously, and to invest in renewable energy. It's the European Parliament that has pushed all member states to do more waste recycling and the European Commission that has insisted on clean beaches and control of chemical fertiliser use to curb nitrate pollution. 

We are more European than anything else and we should seek to re-build bridges with our European neighbours in order to be able to shape the Europe we need for the 21st century.

On September 18, Scotland holds its referendum on independence from the Union. Interestingly, Scottish nationalists have allied themselves with a Nordic approach, recognising the huge challenge of climate change and desiring to play an active role in addressing issues of social justice locally and globally. 

The following week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon holds his big climate summit in New York. This is a key staging post to getting agreement in Paris late 2015 on limits to greenhouse gas emissions. World leaders, including the UK government, need to make their intentions clear this year if the process of negotiating legal text is to generate a climate treaty by December 2015. 

2014 is a curiously poignant moment to have to argue for the value and relevance of the EU. As earlier generations disappear, it's as though that direct experience of war and appalling loss and suffering from two bitter, bloody conflicts have erased the memory of what we have achieved over 60 years. As Russia rattles its sabre and China flexes its muscles in arm-wrestling with Japan, we should remember the vital role of allies and friends.

And we should think ahead – one thing leads to another. So, if you want the UK to help shape the EU and how we solve many of the big global issues of this century, you must cast your vote for Europe.