COP26: Climate change the most important challenge facing current political generation, says Peter Liese

Veteran German MEP warns that, 'climate change doesn't recognise national borders'
Press Association

By Peter Liese MEP

Peter Liese (DE, EPP) is vice-chair of the European Parliament's delegation to COP26

03 Nov 2021

Climate change is the most important challenge facing our political generation. If we fail to meet it, our children and grandchildren will probably not be able to overcome the problem. Europe is committed to enormous efforts. In the years since 1990, we have already reduced our emissions by 25 percent.

In contrast, in many other parts of the world, including industrialised countries, emissions have continued to increase. There is no doubt that we must step up our efforts. That is why, at 05h05 on the morning of 21 March, we agreed on the 55 percent target in the climate law for 2030.

We also put into law that climate neutrality by 2050 must be achieved. This means reducing our emissions by four times more per year in the coming nine years than between 1990-2020.

“I am convinced that we need pan-European action, and that Europe needs to engage to lead the world”

The commitment to climate neutrality was announced during the last COP in Madrid and, fortunately, many other parts of the world followed. South Korea, Japan and even emerging countries like South Africa now have the same ambitious 2050 targets as the EU. It is of particular importance that the United States, under the leadership of Joe Biden, has followed.

However, there is much more to be done. In our resolution at the COP, we highlighted China. It is to be welcomed that President Xi announced that emissions will peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

However, this definitely has to be specified, and carbon neutrality is not the same as climate neutrality, as other hazardous greenhouse gases are excluded. For example, methane emissions represent a significant part of the problem. 

I guess that it was not only in my country Germany, where we experienced very narrow debates in the recent election campaign, we sometimes had the feeling that climate policy is mainly a national issue.

It seemed to be as if we had a national air column, and as long as we decarbonised that one, climate change would no longer be a problem. I am convinced that we need pan-European action, and that Europe needs to engage to lead the world. In my view, a particular concern is Australia.

Despite even emerging economies such as South Africa having an ambitious climate neutrality target, Australia - as one of the main emitters with high per capita emissions - has yet to commit to any date. This is one of the biggest challenges and one that needs to be addressed during the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. 

The current high energy prices should not weaken our ambitions. The climate will not take our political problems into account. While there needs to be short-term solutions for people who cannot afford the high energy bills, in the long run, the Fit for 55-package - with many measures on energy efficiency and renewable energies - can be what the BioNTech/Pfizer shot was for the COVID pandemic. Energy efficiency and renewables will immunise us to high prices of fossil fuels.