The time to act on climate is now

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

EU leaders will decide the future of European climate policy. EU citizens are worried about climate change and politicians cannot afford to postpone decisive steps forward any longer, Wendel Trio writes.

Wendel Trio is the director of Climate Action Network Europe (CAN Europe).

This week, our leaders will make a decision on the future of European climate policy after discussing the European Commission’s proposal for a new EU climate and energy package. This crucial test for EU Heads of State and government will show whether or not they will take the necessary action now to protect us, our children and grandchildren from the dangerous and uncontrollable impacts of climate change.

The Commission’s proposal does not guarantee that the EU will meet its fair share of the world’s commitment to keep global temperature rise below 2°C, which has been a cornerstone of EU climate policy since 1996. Indeed, it was the EU that convinced other global leaders to commit to the 2°C limit, based on its identification by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as the point above which global warming would become catastrophic. It’s unthinkable for the EU to walk away from this promise at this critical time as impacts are beginning to escalate.

After the localized catastrophic climate events of the past two years, not just in developing countries but also all over the developed world, including the UK, Germany, Portugal and Spain, it’s time for them to take off their blinders and listen to the people. EU leaders need inject this proposal with more ambition and make sure efforts are shared equitably. We need an emissions reduction goal that represents more than business as usual. Our leaders must also call for greenhouse gas emission reductions, renewable energy and energy savings to be focused by three mutually reinforcing targets.

A recent Eurobarometer survey shows that 7 out of 10 Europeans recognize climate change as a “very serious” threat. If more than two thirds of Europeans are very worried about climate change, it is surely egregious if our leaders are not taking action to combat it.

Our low carbon future is within our grasp. This future is what Europeans need, one with healthy air, a stable climate, plentiful, safe and secure energy supplies and comfortable homes, a future in which we reap the financial benefits of reduced energy consumption and more renewable energy production. We are at a very critical juncture between vision and climate chaos. Every bad decision that our leaders make now will make it much harder and hugely more expensive to catch up in our needed efforts to decarbonise later.

We find it impossible to believe the EU would delay a decision on this package. After all, discussions have been ongoing for months already while climate impacts continue to mount across Europe. We agree with progressive Ministers from the Green Growth Group who spoke out recently that a decision must not be put off. Our leaders must not delay agreement, as it would send the wrong signal to the international community. Everyone is pushing for the EU to retake its leadership role as a first step towards an ambitious and fair international climate agreement in Paris next year. Let’s hope our leaders listen. 

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