EU strategy not enough to save us from ‘brink of climate breakdown’

Published by Niall Sargent on

November 29th, 2018

The EU’s new strategy to achieve a climate neutral Europe by 2050 is a welcome move but not enough to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C, Europe’s leading environmental groups have warned.

The European Commission launched the strategy – Long Term Strategy for a Clean Planet For All – this week in Brussels in advance of the start of next month’s COP meeting in Poland.

Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicated that only rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes can limit global warming to below the 1.5°C threshold.

The strategy outlines a crucial role for energy efficiency and the circular economy in helping the EU to achieve a net-zero emissions economy by mid-century.

It also includes pathways for the large-scale roll-out of zero emissions buildings across Europe and calls for tackling emissions through carbon capture and storage techniques and by creating natural carbon sink such as forests.

Europe would also end carbon emissions from transport by 2050 under its strategy, the European Commission said, with combustion engine cars and trucks likely to be phased out in the 2030s.

Transport & Environment, a European federation of transport NGOs, produced an analysis this week setting out how transport can be decarbonised by 2050.

The analysis shows that a combination of batteries and hydrogen for cars, trucks and ships and synthetic fuels for planes is needed to eradicate transport emissions.

Traffic congestion in Co Dublin Photo: Pxhere

Climate breakdown

According to the Director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, Wendel Trio, the Commissions’s call for a “dramatic change in direction” will better equip the EU to tackle the “climate catastrophe”.

HE added, however, that the EU will need to significantly increase its 2030 climate target and push forward its deadline to fully decarbonize to 2040 if the EU is to “pull us back from the brink of the climate breakdown”.

“As a matter of urgency, the EU needs to massively increase the 2030 target. It is the short term emission cuts that will make or break our response to climate change,” Mr Trio warned.

Clémence Hutin, climate justice campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said that 2050 is “simply too late for Europe to stop burning carbon”.

“Europe is largely responsible for the carbon pollution in Earth’s atmosphere and must do its fair share of action – meaning we must massively and speedily transform our society to phase out fossil fuels in the next decade, not thirty years’ time.”

Conférence des Nations Unies sur les changements climatiques – COP21 (Paris, Le Bourget)

10 years too late

While welcoming of the strategy’s headline message, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said agreed that the journey needs to be completed by 2040 to hit the Paris Agreement target.

The EEB, Europe’s largest environmental network, called for additional requirements for manufacturers to make consumer products more easily repairable and recyclable by design.

The strategy also highlights some of the co-benefits of cutting emissions, including €200bn of annual health benefits from cutting toxic air pollution.

However, according to Margherita Tolotto, the EEB’s Clean Air Policy Officer, the strategy fails to include a specific policy for dealing with methane emissions

“Cutting methane emissions is a win-win for climate and health. We need to see the EU following the example set by the USA under the Obama administration by agreeing laws to tackle this harmful gas,” she said.

“Transitioning from harmful fossil fuels to clean and sustainable alternatives will help to clean up Europe’s toxic air with enormous benefits to our health and the environment.”

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London