As you read these lines, the UN Climate Action Summit will have just begun in New York. It opens its doors following the extraordinary global youth movement that saw last Friday a whole generation tied together by their common fear for the future – and their hope.
Yes, hope that politicians will at last take ambitious action to fight global warming. And hope that corporations will change, adapt and lead the low-carbon pathway.
By the dozens in some places, and by the tens of thousands in others, youngsters demonstrated in cities all over the world. And that’s what makes this climate march such an incredible success. It is not only the record number of participants – an estimated four million – but also the fact that marches have taken place in iconic cities such as New York and Berlin, as well as in countries such as Pakistan, Kenya and the Solomon Islands.
And now what?
Will Friday’s momentum translate into political pressure on governments? Will heads of state deliver in New York as UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged them to do?
This is the big question mark. And a very scary one.
Friday’s protests showed where the protests did not take place, and that is China, the biggest greenhouse gas emitter worldwide. How is this to be understood?
In Europe, Angela Merkel’s climate cabinet presented the eagerly awaited new climate package for 2030 the same day when some 270,000 marchers took to the streets of Berlin. Did the climate cabinet brought about the turnaround needed for Germany to meet its climate commitment? The answer is no. And this is a bitter disappointment for a country that once led the way with its famous Energiewende (energy transition).
Making train tickets a little bit cheaper and flights a little more expensive, banning oil heating in the future – these measures are actually just drops on the increasingly hot stones. The Federal Government responded to the outcry of the citizens on the streets with a tired sigh.
The much-discussed “climate protection package” is in reality not even a small package. Germany is showing us a government that does not dare to govern courageously on the climate front. And a Chancellor who can no longer pride herself on being the ‘Klimakanzlerin’ as she once used to be called. But that was a long time ago anyway.
For the climate movement, the current climate resolutions can therefore only be an incentive to continue. If the pressure from the streets continues as it is right now, it will perhaps translate into real climate policy. It is urgently needed.
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The climate march in Berlin last Friday came just at the moment when the German climate cabinet unveiled its new policy package – a proposal youth climate activists denounced as a “slap in the face.”
Striking a similar note, environmental organisations are already calling for the revision of the proposed carbon price for the transport and construction sector.
Meanwhile, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the European Committee of the Regions, writes that local governments must step up to the plate in order to reach climate neutrality by 2050.
Also, the European Commission has asked EU countries to reject a UN resolution this week that could forbid the bloc from going further than the CORSIA aviation emissions reduction plan currently being developed at international level.
Staying with the green theme, a survey conducted by YouGov shows that football fans strongly support environmental NGOs’ call to clubs in the UK top four divisions to eliminate single-use plastics from their stadiums.
Elsewhere, following a month-long standoff in appointing the EU’s first-ever anti-fraud prosecutor, a majority of member states have backed Romania’s former top anti-corruption official Laura Codruța Kövesi.
Tens of thousands marched in Slovakia’s capital on Sunday (22 September) calling for a total ban on abortions in the predominantly Catholic central European country.
Missed out on our own big news? Over the weekend, EURACTIV opened up a new branch in Bulgaria. The move made waves back in Brussels, where President Juncker sent his best wishes.
Look out for…
Tomorrow, First Vice-President Timmermans together with Commissioner Neven Mimica will represent the EU at the first UN Summit on the Sustainable Development Goals. Timmermans and High Representative Mogherini will join the President of the European Council Tusk for the opening of the General Debate of the 74th UN General Assembly.
Views are the author’s