Climate and energy package: Commission's 2030 proposals too focussed on short term interests of 'Europe's dirty old industries'

MEPs and EU national leaders still have time to show 'real leadership' and increase the EU's targets on emmission reduction targets, argues Natalia Alonso.

By Natalia Alonso

27 Jan 2014

Climate change is already causing hunger and it will only get worse. Yet last week, the European commission's proposal on climate and energy policy for 2030 did little to address this.

Instead, captured by the short term interests of Europe's dirty old industries, the commission opted to ignore the needs of the people and the planet.

Despite irrefutable evidence about the risks of climate change, the commission proposed to set emission reduction goals at a low 40 per cent by 2030. This is dangerous and goes against Europe's own economic interests. Europe has already cut 20 per cent of its emissions seven years before the 2020 deadline.

It is likely to reduce emissions by close to 30 per cent by 2020 without much extra effort. Cutting just 10 per cent more over the following ten years is lamentably unambitious. It will not provide the extra stimulus which new and innovative industries need to keep Europe ahead of the global low carbon race.

If European governments back this suggested EU target, we can kiss goodbye the chance of keeping global warming under two degrees Celsius. All world leaders agree that two degrees is the threshold, beyond which we will realise the worst impacts of climate change.

The recent droughts in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa have been linked to climate change. They give us a taste of the future, with lower agricultural yields and higher food prices for those who can least afford it.

By 2030, staple food prices are expected to double, with climate change driving at least half of that increase. People in the developing world will feel this particularly hard, but so will people in eastern and southern Europe too, who spend a higher proportion of their income on food and where unemployment is high.

Even in Europe, agriculture which represents 3.5 per cent of the EU-28's GDP and employs 17 million people will be hit hard. In 2003, heat waves ripped away 36 per cent of agricultural production in some parts of Italy and cost the EU around €13bn.

This will happen more often unless climate change is controlled. Europe's has an even bigger problem, because it imports 72 per cent of its food from the developing world, from areas which are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

We're at a tipping point. Business leaders from across the political spectrum called for tougher climate action at the world economic forum in Davos last week.

As climate change already begins to cause hunger and erratic weather upturns lives from the Philippines to the United States, the EU needs to set an ambitious agenda into the UN climate talks in Paris next year.

There is still time for Europe to show real leadership. European leaders will discuss the proposals over the next six months and many have indicated they want to see a more comprehensive package, including upping the target for emissions cuts.

When voting on this issue on 9 February, MEPs should give a clear signal to the commission and member state leaders that acting on climate change is not only the right thing for the planet, but the right thing for Europe too.

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