I’m having one of those moments when I’m genuinely in awe of what people power can do when there’s enough of us working together to take on the most polluting companies in the world.
Just a couple of months ago, it was revealed that the UK – following intense lobbying by the oil industry and its Canadian government allies – was seeking to sabotage a European plan that would prevent oil derived from tar sands ending up in cars across our continent.
As you’ll know, tar sands extraction causes the destruction of important forests, water pollution and vast amounts of carbon emissions – it’s no exaggeration to say it’s probably the dirtiest fuel on Earth.
Together with our colleagues in Friends of the Earth, the Co-operative, People and Planet, 38 Degrees and Avaaz, we mobilised tens of thousands of us so together we could all pile pressure onto Nick Clegg and his Lib Dem transport minister Norman Baker ahead of today’s European vote.
Well, the news is just in and the UK got out of the way and abstained in the vote. Considering that, just weeks ago, officials in the Department for Transport were aggressively lobbying against the plan, this is a considerable shift from the UK.
Now the European proposals will go before a new vote of ministers in June, so we’ll have to keep up the pressure.
Right now, Europe is split down the middle, so the UK will be key.
Hats off to Norman Baker, the minister under the spot light. He’s faced a barrage of pressure from all of us – and today’s vote shows that he was listening. Even though he abstained instead of voting in favour of the proposals, getting this change past Number 10 is a major acheivement.
But now that's why we need Clegg to get behind Baker and ensure that when the crux vote happens in June, the UK doesn’t just sit on the fence, but instead shows environmental leadership and backs the European plan.
In opposition, the Lib Dems compared tar sands oil to “land mines, blood diamonds and cluster bombs".
In a stroke, Clegg and Baker could make an impact on the global stage by changing the economics of investment in the dirtiest oil on earth. This is the kind of thing they got into politics to do. Blocking the European plan on tar sands in June would be bad for the Lib Dems politically, but a hell of a lot worse for the environment they profess to defend.
In June, we’ll see if they’re as passionate about this now they’re in government as they were when they were seeking out votes.