European mayors call for urgent climate action as global strike kicks off

Written by Martin Banks on 20 September 2019 in News
News

Mayors representing 8,000 European cities have called for urgent action to meet the EU’s commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Global Climate Strike protesters in London  | Photo credit: Press Association


The demand comes just ahead of a “global climate strike” on Friday when millions of people around the world, many inspired by young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, are expected to come out on to the streets urging political leaders to intensify climate action.

Youngsters have been asked to stay away from school all over the world on Friday in the latest climate "strike", an idea first launched by Thunberg.

Global leaders are due to descend on New York on Monday for the much-anticipated UN Climate Action summit, where governments, including those in Europe, will be urged to take new action to tackle the "climate emergency."


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Ahead of the summit, city leaders representing the “European Covenant of Mayors”, a grouping of mayors from across Europe, came together to demand the “climate proofing” of budgets at an EU and national level.

They say this is the “best way of ensuring that everything possible is done” to meet the EU’s commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement and meet the bloc’s promise of a carbon-neutral EU by 2050.

They include Peter Marland, mayor of Milton Keynes in the UK who, speaking on Friday, told this website, “The climate strike is another message that our young people will not continue to put up with the national governments and polluters of today not taking climate action seriously.”

"Our planet is now in danger and we have little time, we must act now to move from fossil fuels and a wasteful economy to clean energy and sustainability.”

“The climate strike is another message that our young people will not continue to put up with the national governments and polluters of today not taking climate action seriously” Peter Marland, mayor of Milton Keynes, UK

A European Commission source said that climate proofing “is about analysing every euro committed and spent and assigning it a value in carbon emissions.”

“In this way, spending in various government departments outside of the environment or climate departments does not undermine the spending done to mitigate and counteract climate change.”

“In practice, it means eliminating spending on fossil fuels and prioritising spending on efficiency first and renewable energy measures which will reduce emissions and lead to a more rational use of resources,” the source added.

Marland said that climate proofing should be a “cornerstone” of incoming EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s ‘Green New Deal’ promised in her first 100 days in office, due to take effect from 1 November.

Juan Espadas, Mayor of Sevilla, Spain, and a member of the European Covenant of Mayors, noted, “Climate proofing budgets is an effective way of changing our spending and questioning our model of development, in a way that is consistent with our Paris Agreement commitments.”

“It is also a mechanism that can be used to track, on an annual basis, how we are doing in making the necessary changes. As local government leaders, we are committed to support the Commission in making our common ambition a reality.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called on all world leaders attending the summit to come up with plans to increase the 2030 climate targets which limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

“As local government leaders, we are committed to support the Commission in making our common ambition a reality” Juan Espadas, Mayor of Sevilla, Spain

The IPCC special report on climate change, to be released on 25 September, is expected to say that much deeper emission cuts are needed to avoid damage caused by climate-related superstorms, rising seas, melting glaciers and permafrost.

The European Commission’s current proposal is that climate-related spending should be 25 percent of the next Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 (MFF) – about €320bn.

But the impact of that amount will be reduced if other budget lines continue to spend money on projects which support or increase carbon emissions. According to Eurostat figures, government spending was 45.8 percent of GDP in 2017 across the EU for a total of over €7 trillion.

On the eve of the summit, a new survey says that more than half of voters in each country of those surveyed – aside from the Netherlands and France – think measures to tackle climate change should be given priority, even at the risk of curbing economic growth.

Support for this was most popular in Romania (77 percent), Greece (74 percent), Italy (74 percent), and Hungary (73 percent).

The survey was carried out by think tank the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

Susi Dennison, a Senior Fellow and specialist in European power at the ECFR, argues that there is a growing appetite among Europeans for a strategic pooling of “sovereignty” in tackling climate change.

“Against the backdrop of rising public anger and a devastating increase of extreme weather events, leaders across Europe are finally starting to grasp their responsibility for tackling the climate crisis” Wendel Trio, Climate Action Network Europe

 Further comment came from Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, who told this website, “Against the backdrop of rising public anger and a devastating increase of extreme weather events, leaders across Europe are finally starting to grasp their responsibility for tackling the climate crisis.”

The Brussels-based Trio added, “More and more European governments support slashing emissions at a much faster pace. The UN summit is an opportunity for European leaders to take a leadership role and encourage others to follow, by committing to increase the EU’s 2030 climate target significantly and without delay.”

“Now it is time for governments to listen to the people on the streets and step up.”

Elsewhere, Annika Hedberg, head of the Sustainable Prosperity for Europe programme and Senior Policy Analyst at the European Policy Centre (EPC), said, "The climate crisis is the challenge of our lifetime. As the world looks for solutions, there is an enormous opportunity for Europe to lead and show that change is possible.”

“It’s time for the EU to demonstrate that the transition has economic, societal and environmental benefits, too – and use it to get other global actors on board.”

“It is great to see the challenge being recognised in the appointment of Frans Timmermans as  Commission Vice-President for the EU Green Deal. This is a major assignment.”

“Reaching climate-neutrality won't be easy. It will require leadership, political will, the ability to build bridges, and taking action across many different sectors, from energy to agriculture, from transport to financing, from industrial processes to buildings.”

She added, “It is essential to have an outspoken champion for the transition, someone who can help mobilise different stakeholders. Timmermans certainly is a good candidate for the task.”

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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