Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee, argues that climate doesn’t wait but more ambition and accelerated action on it is needed in Europe
July was a clear wake-up call: Much of our planet sweltered in an unprecedented heatwave, as temperatures soared and reached new heights in the hottest month ever recorded globally.
Signs of ecological collapse are getting clearer by the day. Parts of the earth might soon be too hot to live in, more people are getting killed in floods, forest fires and heatwaves every year, putting humankind’s very survival at risk.
Young people across Europe and the world, led by Swedish 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, have taken to the streets to demand more and stronger climate and green policies. The call has not gone unheard and the proof lies in the ballot box, as Europeans in many countries have increasingly backed green parties at the last elections. But time is short: We must accelerate reforms.
The EESC has been since a long time at the forefront in pressing for the delivery of the 2030 Agenda. The 2030 Agenda is the strategy through which the European Union (EU) can become the world champion of the sustainable competitiveness that balances economic prosperity, environmental issues and social inclusiveness. As EESC president, I am utterly convinced that the 2030 Agenda is a win/win strategy for the employers, the workers and the civil society.
When EU leaders failed to agree on an EU-wide target to make the EU carbon neutral by 2050 last June, many were disappointed. But the deal is not off the table. Finland, who currently holds the EU presidency, is eager to get it done by the end of the year. The UN is holding a climate summit in September in New York City, which could bring new momentum to the negotiations.
At the same time, we have a new European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, who has pledged to present a “green deal” for Europe in her first 100 days in office and legislate to achieve “climate neutrality” across the EU by 2050.
Is all this a bit more reassuring? Surely. However, we need to understand that grand policies go hand in hand with micro policies. Everything that contributes to reduce our carbon footprint needs to be thought through, not only at EU level but also at the national, regional and city level.
In Europe, 210 mayors from all across the continent recently called for more ambitious emission reduction targets. And other local and regional authorities have declared climate emergencies in their constituencies to raise awareness about the issue.
So far, countries even the one leading the way on climate, like Finland, Sweden or Germany fall short on coming up with concrete measures to achieve ambitious carbon reduction objectives.
In June, the European Commission issued its recommendations on the draft national energy and climate plans (NECPs) submitted by the 28 EU member states to achieve their 2030 objectives and called for “stronger ambition, more policy detail, better-specified investment needs, or more work on social fairness.”
The plans are not up to target. For example, renewable energy deployment could fall short by 1.6 percentage points against a 32% target for 2030. Energy efficiency measures risk leaving a gap of 6.2 percentage points versus a 32.5% benchmark.
Member states will come up 2% short in sectors like agriculture, ground transport and buildings, which are not covered by the EU’s carbon trading system. The current trajectory is heading for 28% cuts rather than the agreed 30%.
At best, the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) could achieve an overall greenhouse gas reduction of 40% compared to 1990 levels, the EU’s official target, which is now largely considered outdated since it was agreed in 2014 before the Paris Agreement was signed.
The European Parliament, as well as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, have called for that goal to be ratcheted up to 55%, saying that would bring the EU in line with its Paris commitments.
New laws brokered last year, if fully implemented, could help the EU achieve around 45% emissions cuts by 2030. But countries are not on track to reach that objective.
Member states have now six months to raise their national ambition. In the meantime, the EU, which will start negotiations on its multi-annual financial framework (MFF) must follow suit. To launch a genuine Green Deal, as President Von Der Leyen proposed, the EU must give itself the means.
The EESC has made it clear that the Commission’s proposal does not seem ambitious enough in that regard. We think that the current 1% ceiling for the EU’s expenditure should be increased to 1.3% of GNI.
The MFF is not a book-keeping exercise, it is a political act.
It is about providing, or not providing, the European Union with the means to deliver its agenda: a sustainable future for 500 million citizens. We need more political acts as the climate doesn’t wait.
Editor's Recommended Articles
Must Read >> Fighting food insecurity through global cooperation