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Editorial: The EU can and must take stronger climate action
With the sustained heat, drought and forest fires that are wreaking havoc across Europe, one would think European countries would be incentivised to increase action to tackle climate change.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has also made it crystal clear that our addiction to and dependence on fossil fuels has put us in a very undesirable situation. Despite all this, EU greenhouse gas emissions in the first quarter of this year have risen 6% compared to last year.
These numbers are worrying and indicate that the EU is not on track to achieve its pledge to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by more than half by 2030. While we should actually be doing more. In 2015, countries pledged in the Paris Climate Agreement to keep temperature rise to 1.5°C as going beyond that temperature threshold will bring devastating impacts for all.
The world definitely is not on track to keep this promise and current countries’ promises are likely to lead to an average global temperature rise of around 2.5°C. All countries therefore need to do more than they have promised so far, and this definitely also applies to the EU. In fact, the EU should do more than many other countries as it has a large historical responsibility for past emissions that are still active in the atmosphere, and also has the financial and other means to invest in a rapid transformation of its economy.
But we actually witness the opposite. According to the proposals that EU governments and the European Parliament are currently discussing, under the so-called Fit for 55 package, the EU is set to emit double the amount of greenhouse gases over the period 2021 to 2050 that would be permitted if the remaining emissions (to keep us within 1.5°C) are divided on an equal per capita basis.
This is clearly unacceptable and the EU needs to urgently do more and agree to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 65% by 2030 (as compared to its emission levels in 1990). This is also the message coming out of multiple studies indicating what the EU can do to tackle the climate change crisis. It is high time our decision-makers listen to our scientists and adapt current plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase the use of renewable energy and limit energy waste so that the use of fossil fuels, and our dependence on the untrustworthy states that produce them, can be completely phased out as soon as possible.
European governments and the European Parliament are currently looking at how to best implement and possibly go beyond the current EU's climate pledge through extensive negotiations on a package of new legislation which is called the Fit for 55 Package. At the same time, the European Commission has proposed additional measures to support renewables and energy savings in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, through its so-called REPowerEU Communication. EU decision-makers need to ensure these proposals lead to new action and greater ambition in the coming weeks.
We have no time to waste. The EU, through Frans Timmermans, VicePresident of the European Commission, has undertaken to review its 2030 climate pledge to the Paris Agreement by COP27, which takes place in November this year. The EU thus has just a few months left to do so. As EU Heads of State and Government have taken the responsibility for setting climate targets, they will need to discuss and agree on a new 2030 climate target to reduce emissions by at least 65% at the European Council meeting on 20–21 October. In order to do so, proposals obviously need to be launched and discussed now, rather today than tomorrow. All eyes are therefore on European Council president Charles Michel to push this process forward.