Climate Change and the European Union
By Jane Brophy in GLD Challenge magazine 2019-20
This determination to stand up for my environmental beliefs has led me through my political career and enabled me to end up where I have been on my political journey.
Heading to the European Parliament after being elected in May, I was extremely keen to continue my focus on the environment and green politics. I wanted to help to make a difference on a European and as a result, a global level. Before I arrived, the EU as an organisation had already been working hard to encourage member states to fight catastrophic climate change for a number of years.
In 2015 the EU made a huge leap in its desire to address climate change by signing up to the Paris climate agreement, the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. Globally, only 2 countries did not sign up to the agreement and sadly one, rather large player in the USA, has since left the agreement.
Nicaragua, one of the other 2 along with Syria, did not sign up because they thought the measures didn't go far enough! This is a country that generates over half of its energy from renewable sources and wants to increase this to 90% by 2020! That is true ambition and should inspire us all.
Since then and my arrival in the parliament, the EU has been working hard to create its own goals to address the climate change emergency, and as a result is starting to drive global competition.
In November 2019, the EU declared a climate emergency, a huge step forward in signalling the real danger posed by climate change. I am proud to have been part of the team of MEPs who voted to pass this, however I voted for tougher restrictions and more ambitious targets to be adopted. These ambitious targets sadly did not pass, but I do not give up hope that these targets will be revised over the coming years.
This declaration from the parliament means that the Commission must ensure all proposals are aligned with 1.5°C target, a huge step for legislation that will affect all 27 member states. The EU aims to cut emissions by 55% by 2030 to become climate neutral by 2050, a huge step to be taken by such a big block of countries.
The declaration also included several commitments from the parliament, including calling on EU countries to at least double their contributions to the international Green Climate Fund, and also urgently call on all EU countries to phase out all direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies by 2020.
Alongside this declaration, the EU has also set a binding renewable energy target of at least 32% of final energy consumption by 2030 , including a review clause by 2023 for an upward revision. There is a commitment to have at least a 32.5% improvement in energy efficiency in the period between 2021 and 2030 to help achieve this.
The declaration of a climate emergency and targets set by the EU show a real commitment to green politics from the EU and I really hope the UK follows suit.
As ever, these targets have good intentions but the EU needs to make sure that they are followed and implemented by member states. The targets need to be revised regularly and put into place alongside the science available to us.
As a substitute member of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety or ENVI committee, I continued to show my support for immediate action in the fight against climate change. In committee, I spoke out and gave my support to the Environmental Implementation Review process, a way to step up the implementation of environmental policies across Europe and to ensure countries not following these targets would be punished. The commission must fulfil its' legal responsibility as the guardian of EU law and take action against member states who are in clear breach of EU law and not implementing these policies.
I still have my concerns that not all member states are pulling their weight to make changes to meet these environmental goals, however the forward thinking vision and the proactive work of the EU gives me hope.
The climate change emergency is real, and hard work is needed alongside the science. In its role as a representative body of 27 nation states, the EU can drive the rest of the world in the new race to become the biggest green power. I sincerely hope the UK are part of this new global race and will strive to be leaders.
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