In her bid to lead the EU toward climate neutrality, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen wants to put up 100 billion euros ($147 billion Cdn) to help member countries that still heavily rely on fossil fuels transition to lower emissions.
Von der Leyen, who took office this month at the helm of the European Union’s powerful executive arm, has made the fight against climate change the top priority of her five-year mandate. The first woman ever to lead the commission, she has pledged to make the EU the world’s first carbon -neutral continent by 2050 as part of the “European Green Deal” she will unveil Wednesday.
I want us to agree on the commitment for the EU to become climate-neutral by 2050.– Charles Michel, EU Council President
A draft of the resolutions that EU leaders will pursue on climate change when they meet Thursday, obtained by The Associated Press, says the 100 billion-euro investment will serve as “support for regions and sectors most affected by the transition.”
Commitments needed from Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland
The commission hopes the fund will help the regions that stand to be hit the hardest financially by the transition to cleaner industries. Among them, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland have yet to commit to the EU’s goal of net zero emissions of CO2 by 2050, which will be discussed Thursday during a meeting of EU heads of state and government in Brussels.
The new fund, whose full details should be unveiled in January, might help convince leaders from the three countries to join that goal.
“I want us to agree on the commitment for the EU to become climate-neutral by 2050,” said Charles Michel, the president of the EU Council, in his invitation letter to the EU leaders that make up the group. “This would be a major signal from the European Council that the EU will take a global leadership role on this crucial issue.”
He said the transition to a lower-emissions economy will create opportunities for economic growth, but that the EU needs to recognize that the shift could be more disruptive for certain countries.
Von der Leyen, who will present in March a European Climate Law, wants the 28-country bloc to reduce carbon emission by at least 50 per cent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels, more than the currently agreed goals of 40 per cent. If possible, she would like to increase the EU’s target for 2030 has high as 55 per cent in a way that would not hurt the economy.
Rules on ‘green’ financial products rejected
Negotiators at the UN climate conference in Madrid had one eye on Brussels Wednesday.
German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said she hoped the ‘European Green Deal’ would “give the discussions here a boost.”
“It’s a really important signal if the EU puts protecting the climate centre stage in this way,” she told reporters in Madrid. “If (the EU) says very clearly that we will raise our targets, that we want to do more.”
However, Wednesday began with a major setback for the bloc’s climate ambitions, when European Union states rejected a deal on a set of rules governing which financial products can be called “green” and “sustainable,” an EU official reported. The deal struck last week by EU lawmakers and the Finnish presidency of the EU was blocked on by EU diplomats at a meeting in Brussels, as several governments raised concerns on the agreement.
‘Almost nothing is being done, apart from clever accounting’
Meanwhile, at the COP25 climate talks in Madrid, activist Greta Thunberg accused business and political leaders of misleading the public by holding climate talks that are not achieving real action against what she called the world’s “climate emergency.”
In a speech peppered with scientific facts about global warming, the Swedish 16-year-old told negotiators at the U.N.’s COP25 climate talks in Madrid that they have to stop looking for loopholes for their countries’ actions and face up to the ambition that is needed to protect the world from a global warming disaster.
“The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening, when in fact almost nothing is being done, apart from clever accounting and creative PR,” Thunberg said.
We have underestimated the pace of change and we have underestimated the risks we are facing.– Johan Rockstrom, Potsdam Institute of Climate Studies
“Finding holistic solutions is what the COP should be all about, but instead it seems to have turned into some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition,” she added, to wide applause.
About 40 climate activists, including representatives of indigenous peoples from several continents, briefly joined Thunberg after her speech on the conference’s main stage, holding hands and demanding “Climate Justice!” through slogans and songs.
Countries negotiate rules for global carbon market
The climate talks in Madrid, meanwhile, entered uncharted waters Wednesday with ministers trying to agree on rules for a global carbon market and possible ways to compensate vulnerable countries for disasters caused by global warming.
World leaders agreed in Paris four years ago to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), ideally no more than 1.5 C (2.7 F) by the end of the century. Scientists say countries will miss both of those goals by a wide margin unless drastic steps are taken to begin cutting greenhouse gas emissions next year.
Johan Rockstrom, director of the Postdam Institute of Climate Studies and one of the most revered scientists on the issue, said for 20 years “we have underestimated the pace of change and we have underestimated the risks we are facing.”
Addressing the heads of delegations, activists and non-governmental organizations at the climate talks, Rockstrom said under the current scenario, the planet is heading to warming by 3 to 4 degrees in only 80 years. He said that could create an environment unseen in Earth for more than 4 million years and could trigger disastrous domino effects for human life.
“We stand on an unprecedented mountain of truth,” he said. “If nature fails, we fail as well.”
Following him, Thunberg cited the same reports, insisting that national pledges to reduce emissions weren’t enough. She said to avoid disaster, carbon needs to remain underground and that the greenhouse gases responsible for rising temperatures need to be zeroed.
“This is not leading, this is misleading,” she told the plenary, adding that “every fraction of a degree matters.”