The Climate Crisis is here. We see it every day. Concerns surrounding climate change have grown over the years and continue to do so despite the Coronavirus pandemic, and as Members of the European Parliament we have a responsibility to listen to the concerns of our citizens.
With the vote on the EU Climate Law, the European Parliament delivered a historic climate policy that commits us to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. This was our answer to the calls of the thousands and thousands who took to the streets to protect their future, because their ‘house is on fire’.
The German researcher and former director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, once famously said: “With the climate, basically anything that could go wrong has gone wrong”. However, with the European Climate Law, we have a chance to make things right and prove to those putting their faith in us that we listen, learn and act.
The Climate Law must be our fire extinguisher, so that we can put out the fire that climate change represents. We have taken a step in the right direction by setting an ambitious target, but we also know that it is not enough to keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as the Paris Agreement requires.
“The Climate Law must be our fire extinguisher, so that we can put out the fire that climate change represents”
The European Parliament decided to accompany the climate target with measures to ensure it is met. We introduced a strong science component, with a greenhouse gas budget and an independent scientific climate council. Both should ensure that the calls to “listen to science” will be taken seriously by policymakers.
The Climate Law also ensures citizens are included in climate policymaking, by giving them the right to participate when Member States formulate their climate plans and the ability to hold them to account. Giving citizens rights they can legally enforce is an important step in the right direction, including the universal right to a healthy climate, and is further evidence of our commitment to take voters’ concerns seriously.
With the ban of fossil subsidies by the year 2025, we are implementing what EU leaders had already called for in 2014. It is beyond comprehension that in 2020, while the climate crisis continues to rage, up to €135bn of taxpayers’ money is still being spent on subsidising climate harmful activities in Europe. This is certainly not what people asked for when they voted for us to protect the climate during last year’s European elections.
It would better if we could place these huge investments in renewable energy technologies or towards the renovation of houses across the continent instead. Yet another way of honouring our commitment to the will of the people. However, there is a catch. Although the European Commission has presented its 2030 climate target plan, the European Council is blocking and postponing the negotiations on the new climate target.
While we, the European Parliament, confirmed in a resolution what millions of citizens have called for in the streets: that we are in a climate emergency and need climate action now. But the European Council did not take a decision in its October meeting, nor has the Council of Environment Ministers been able to do so. It has delayed the decision until 11 December, while on 12 December, the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, the Council is expected to announce the new climate target to the international community.
This is yet another strategy to undermine the European Parliament and ignore its decisions. We see this again and again, starting with the Council not respecting the call from the Parliament to make a ‘Spitzenkandidat’ European Commission President. That’s why it is essential for the Parliament to come together behind a strong European Climate Law, to stand by our values and bring the Council and Commission on board for climate action that matches the climate emergency that we are in.
“I am happy that the majority of MEPs voted in favour of the European Climate Law. Now we, as representatives of the European people, will prepare to defend that goal in our talks with the Council”
If we want to put out the climate crisis fire, we need to stop fuelling it with billions of euros worth of fossil fuel subsidies. We need to stop harming our planet and our economy and instead invest in clean green technologies. And what better time to invest in the future than now?
As we reboot the European economy with the Recovery and Resilience Fund, we should ensure that the money is invested wisely - for the economy and our planet: in the solar and wind industries, battery technologies, climate-neutral steel, energy-efficient building refurbishment and a circular economy. But these investments also need policy predictability and security.
Thus, defining a realistic 2030 climate target now, which will not have to be readjusted later, is the only sensible thing to do. Therefore, I am happy that the majority of MEPs voted in favour of the European Climate Law. Now we, as representatives of the European people, will prepare to defend that goal in our talks with the Council. And while we know that the European democratic system is built on the ability to find compromises, we will defend the Parliament’s position nonetheless - for the sake of our children and a sustainable economy.