Climate Justice & Sustainability

A lack of global ambition - time for us to do what we can to make Europe a leader of climate action

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As the youth of Europe we are often told by our leaders that they are leading the way in combating climate change and that they are doing the most they can in tough economic conditions. But as a group of some of the world’s richest and most technologically advanced nations, who collectively produce about 17% of global emissions, there really is no excuse for inaction. It’s time we take what action we can to make that action a reality.

The EU’s responsibility

As the youth of Europe we are often told by our leaders that they are leading the way in combating climate change and that they are doing the most they can in tough economic conditions. In this blog I’ll outline why we shouldn’t believe them and why Europe must stand up and show the world the value of ambition. There are many ways you can tell our leaders what we need; whether this is by writing to your MP, joining a campaign group and taking action in your spare time or telling everyone you know how important it is that we take action on climate change, it all makes a difference.

The European Union comprises some of our planet’s richest and most technologically advanced nations and accounts for around 17% of global emissions. What’s more, after 150 years of industrialisation and pollution the EU is responsible for a large chunk of historical emissions. Now, the EU finds itself at a unique crossroads for the future of the world.

Climate change is a complex issue and perhaps we have already lingered too long to take action to prevent it, but we do know we can limit its effects with swift and decisive action. Europeans have both the ability and responsibility to take strong steps to limit their impact on the environment through strict targets. Only through a high level of ambition from the European Union will we have the leadership that is needed to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Scientists have confirmed that in order to prevent runaway climate change we must ensure warming doesn’t go above 2 degrees, however, the current pledges for emissions reductions put us on a path of over 3.5 degrees or more. Warming on this scale would have dire consequences for the people of our world and the ecosystems on which we depend. There is a critical need for world emissions to peak and swiftly decline in the very near future if dangerous levels of warming are to be prevented.

A clear lack of ambition

The EU has committed to cutting emissions to 20% below 1990 levels with an extra offer on the table to reduce emissions by 30%, but only if other major emitters will do the same. This is a fairly meagre offer considering the EU has already reduced its emissions by 16.5% and is on course to hit the current targets well before 2020. Rather than playing a waiting game until the 2020 deadline, the EU has a chance to show some climate leadership to the rest of the world by increasing its ambition in line with its responsibilities. By setting a stronger target for 2020, as well as a binding interim target for 2025, the EU has a chance to influence the current lack of ambition shown by many developed countries ahead of the upcoming global talks from Warsaw (this November) through to Paris (in 2015).

An urgent need for leadership

We have two and a half years until the 21st annual meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris. This Conference of the Parties (known as COP21) presents an opportunity for the world’s nations to gather and fulfill the promises made in Durban at COP17. They must agree a global climate deal setting a path towards a lower carbon world in order to avoid catastrophic climate change, while adapting to those impacts of climate change that are already in motion. This deal must ensure that the world’s poorest nations do not shoulder the burden of climate change, and that they have the technology to adapt and follow a clean route to development.

The 2015 agreement will not be possible without clear and leadership from the richest and most developed countries in the world. Only the EU is in a place to provide this leadership. If the EU moves towards 2015 without a commitment to more credible and ambitious targets on the pathway to a low-carbon economy then it will be failing in its duty to its own citizens, those of the world and those of all future generations. We owe it to our children and their children to leave a planet on which they can live.

At the moment we are not on the path to the clean fair future that our generation is owed, power is still in the hands of the older generation that has created this crisis and it is up to young people to stand up and say enough is enough. It is possible to turn this ship around and achieve a fair and sustainable deal for both people and the planet. Push Europe is calling for swift and decisive action by the developed world on climate change. We can settle for nothing less.

Some tricky terms:

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - The international legal framework adopted in June 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit to address climate change. It commits the Parties (the countries) to the UNFCCC to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at levels that would prevent dangerous man made climate change. We say it, the “U-N-F-triple C”.

Conference of the Parties (COP) - The meeting of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Also known as the UN Climate Talks. The number corresponds to the year so COP18 was the 18th annual conference, held in 2012 in Doha.

Kyoto Protocol - Adopted at the Third Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change held in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997. The Kyoto Protocol (or KP) commits industrialized country signatories to reduce their carbon emissions by an average of 5.2% compared with 1990 emissions, in the period 2008-2012.

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