Tomorrow Ed Miliband, secretary of state for energy and climate change, will meet with ministers in Brussels to finalise new EU legislation on climate and energy. The week after, he goes to Poland to continue negotiations for an international climate deal.

The new European legislation sets EU-wide targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 (Cut greenhouse emissions by a fifth, ministers told, December 2). A strong enough deal has the potential to drive a green industrial revolution that could help pull Europe out of recession. It would also bolster the EU's flagging leadership on climate change and become a key step in securing an international deal.

But there is a major flaw. Our own government is trying to wriggle out of its climate commitments by pushing for half of its reduction in emissions to be allowed to be met by purchasing offset credits from outside the EU. In other words, paying others so that we can carry on polluting. If approved, it's possible that EU emissions would barely fall by 2020 - with emissions from transport, buildings and agriculture in particular potentially dropping by only 3.5%. Climate science shows we cannot afford this kind of complacency - to avoid catastrophic climate change, the UK and other European countries must reduce greenhouse gas emissions at home, and on top of that help developing countries do the same. Just two days ago, the government's own expert committee on climate change called for strict limits on the use of offsetting here in the UK. If this get-out clause goes through at EU level, it could scupper hopes of an international climate change deal. There is no more time for smoke and mirrors. Mr Miliband must fight for a deal that really will tackle climate change.

Robin Webster, Friends of the Earth,

Doug Parr, Greenpeace,

Keith Allot, WWF-UK,

Ruth Davis, RSPB,

Laura Webster, Tearfund,

Alison Doig, Christian Aid


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