President von der Leyen: “We need a race to zero in greenhouse gas emissions”

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© Martinmark

To begin EU Green Week 2021, President Ursula von der Leyen gave a speech discussing how the bloc could orchestrate “a race to zero in greenhouse gas emissions” – alongside reaffirming existing policy goals

The European Commission President opened EU Green Week 2021 with a speech that touched on the pandemic, existing policy goals and aspirations for future global agreements that are similar to the Paris Agreement.

‘We have all been confined by a pandemic’, says President

Acknowledging how the necessity of isolation may have encouraged a connection with nature in several regions, President von der Leyen said: “In the past year, we have all been confined by a pandemic. We have spent more time inside than we wished. And as a result, we have discovered a new-found appreciation for being outside, in nature. In the fields, farms and forests that cover our countryside. Or the parks, playgrounds and plazas that are spread across our towns and cities.

“I believe that this appreciation for nature also comes with a greater awareness of its vulnerability.”

While cities make-up only 3% of the world’s area, they hold 50% of all living people. This means that any climate change policy implemented in cities will influence the immediate health and future wellbeing of countless individuals. However, in January, scientists pointed out that there is not enough ongoing work to examine how cities can be changed. 

70% of worlds population will live in cities by 2050

The cities of the world are going to have 70% of the world’s population by 2050. This is also the target year for several climate goals, like making the EU carbon neutral.

President von der Leyen further said: “Pollution and climate change know no borders. We will not protect Europeans through action in Europe alone. We must also work with and inspire our international partners. European standards have to become global standards. We have already committed to give protected status to at least 30% of land and sea here in Europe. We now want to broker the same ambition at global level.”

She hinted at a future climate agreement that specifically focuses on biodiversity, which could happen at the UN Biodiversity Summit in Kunming, China in October.

‘Loss of biodiversity’ one of biggest challenges, according to Finland

Krista Mikkonen, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Finland, commented: “Climate change and the loss of biodiversity are the biggest challenges facing humankind. The consumption of natural resources to a degree that exceeds the Earth’s capacity to regenerate such resources is a root cause for both of these crises.”

President von der Leyen then appealed to the populations of the EU and beyond, asking them to believe themselves capable of inciting small changes that accumulate against the changing earth. She further commented: “We need a race to zero in greenhouse gas emissions. And a race to zero in pollution as well. To all of you watching, listening and taking part in EU Green Week events: You have a crucial role to play!

“Let’s deliver on Europe’s Zero Pollution Ambition! As you organise your events, as you have conversations with friends, family and colleagues.”


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