Greta THUNBERG, Swedish climate activist Photo: European Union / DAINA LE LARDIC

EU net-zero target for 2050 would be “surrender”

16 July 2020

The EU’s current target of net zero emissions for 2050 equals “surrender” to the climate crisis, a letter penned by Greta Thunberg and other activists warns. 

The letter, which continues to gather signatures from activists and scientists the worldover, was sent to EU leaders and heads of state today and demanded that they, “stop pretending that we can solve the climate and ecological crisis without treating it as a crisis”. 

Reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century for the EU, as well as other developed nations, gives the world only a 50 per cent chance of limiting temperature rise to below 1.5 C, according to the document. 

The target is “just a statistical flip of a coin”, it goes onto say, “which doesn’t even include some of the key factors, such as the global aspect of equity, most tipping points and feedback loops, as well as already built in additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution”. 

So in reality, the authors conclude, “it is much less than a 50 per cent chance”. 

Demanded actions 

In order to avoid overshooting 1.5 C, the authors have asked regional leaders to take on a number of actions. 

These include the immediate end to fossil fuel exploration, extraction and subsidization and establishing ecocide as an international crime before the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

The letter also demands the inclusion of international aviation, shipping, and consumption index into total emissions in all figures and targets. 

Any climate policy going forward, the authors say, must be designed to protect workers and the most vulnerable with the overarching goal of reducing economic, racial and gender inequality. 

In their final point, they insist that leaders “treat the climate- and ecological emergency like an emergency.” 

Doing so would require the EU to move beyond current societal and economic parameters. Recovering from a web of intersecting crises within an “economic system that inherently fuels the climate crisis in order to finance climate action is just as absurd as it sounds”, the letter observes. 

Adequate action, the writers stressed, needs, “a new system”. 

Growing calls for systemic change 

While the letter itself is geared towards regional and international change, similar calls for radical change in a post-covid society continue to be made on Irish soil. 

The National Economic and Social Council published a working paper this week calling for policymakers to do things “differently at EU and national levels” and the advisory body emphasized that climate and biodiversity action “can and must” drive the post-pandemic recovery. 

Earlier this month both the EPA and the ESRI noted that “systemic change” was still needed to transition Ireland to a low-carbon society, despite a reduction in emissions due to covid-induced shutdown. 

About the Author

Kayle Crosson

Kayle is a multimedia journalist focused on climate and environmental issues and contributes to The Irish Times and The Green News.