Thursday

9th Apr 2020

EU leaders fly in for UN climate emergency summit

  • A new report indicates that the ice mass keeps decreasing while sea-level rise is accelerating, and fossil fuel resources still dominate the energy global system (Photo: United Nations Photo)

Top climate scientists have reported that sea-level rises, global warming, shrinking ice-mass and carbon pollution have accelerated over the last few years, in an urgent call to action to the political leaders taking party in the UN climate action summit in New York on Monday (23 September).

The new report released on Sunday and presented to the UN summit shows the gap between the targets set up to tackle climate change and the actual reality.

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The outcome of this research "highlights the urgent need for the development of concrete actions that halt the worst effects of climate change," said the science advisory group to the UN secretary general's climate action summit.

According to the report, the average global temperature in the last five years was the warmest of any equivalent period on record. It is currently estimated to be 1.1°C above pre-industrial times.

Under the Paris Agreement adopted by 195 countries, the focus shifted from 2020 to 2030 as the new target year with the objective to keep the temperature increase to well below 2°C, and pursue efforts to keep it to 1.5°C.

"Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors including energy is essential if global warming is to be kept as close as possible to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels," said the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC).

An emissions gap report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warns that if national governments do not implement ambitious policy measures and back them up by action, exceeding the 1.5°C goal can no longer be avoided.

"There has been no real change in the global emissions pathway in the last decade," UNEP said, adding that "delaying action is associated with greater risks of failing to meet the well-below 2°C target and is incompatible with meeting a 1.5°C target".

Additionally, the report indicates that the ice mass keeps decreasing, while sea-level rise is accelerating, and fossil fuel resources still dominate the energy global system - despite the growth that renewable fuels have experienced over the past decade.

EU attendance

EU leaders will participate in the UN climate action summit where "concrete and realistic plans" will be discussed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050.

US president Donald Trump is not expected to attend this summit.

MEPs from the environment and development committees will be at the UN summit to come up with pragmatic plans to reach the above targets.

Additionally, the EU commission vice-president Frans Timmermans (and future commissioner for Green Deal) and commissioner for climate action Miguel Arias Cañete will also attend, together with the president of the EU council Donald Tusk, the opening of the summit.

"The EU arrives at the UN summit with a very strong story. It is very important that all parties of the Paris agreement play an active role because it is the only way to reach our common goal which is to reverse the dangerous global warming," said Arias Cañete, adding that the EU will continue to support and promote solutions with the UN.

The European Investment Bank (EIB), together with other multilateral development banks announced on Sunday that their annual global climate action investment will increase to $175bn [€160bn] by 2025. The EIB provided €16.2bn to fight climate change in 2018 (30 percent of all financing).

German chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition agreed last Friday on a new climate protection package that will invest €40bn on climate protection. German officials acknowledged that the country will not meet its emissions target for 2020.

Similarly, British prime minister Boris Johnson unveiled on Monday £1.2bn [€1.36bn] funding to invest in new efforts to tackle the climate emergency and protect endangered species.

Additionally, the Danish pensions industry association, Insurance and Pension Denmark, announced on Monday an investment of more than €45bn in green assets over the next decade.

At an informal council meeting in Helsinki that will take place on Monday and Tuesday, the EU agriculture ministers will discuss the opportunities for the climate-dependent sector to be more climate-friendly.

Greta Thunberg

Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg opened on Saturday the first-ever UN climate summit for young people, which brought together young activists, innovators, entrepreneurs, and change-makers from more than 140 countries to further address the climate emergency.

"Yesterday millions of people across the globe marched and demanded real climate action, especially young people. We showed that we are united and we young people are unstoppable," Thunberg said.

UN secretary general Guterres called this generation of young people "essential" for combating the climate crisis.

"I have granddaughters. I want them to live in a liveable planet. My generation has a huge responsibility. It is your generation that must hold us accountable to make sure we don't betray the future of humankind," said Guterres.

Analysis

The controversy behind the Energy Charter Treaty reforms

Experts from several organisations say that reform of the Energy Charter Treaty, proposed by the EU Commission, will make it difficult to meet the targets agreed in the Paris Agreement - making it an obstacle to the clean-energy transition.

Use 25% of budget on climate change, urge EU states

A discussion document by eight EU countries is piling on the pressure for the EU to do more to fight climate change. But their demands are likely to meet German resistance as leaders gather in Romania to discuss Europe's future.

Sinkevičius pledges to 'listen' to climate protests

Lithuania's commissioner-designate, Virginijus Sinkevičius, unveiled during his three-hour hearing on Thursday a package of proposals to protect the environment - from the bottom of the oceans to the top of the sky.

Estonian nominee's answers fails to convince all MEPs

Estonia's European commissioner-designate for the energy portfolio, Kadri Simson, did not manage to fully convince MEPs during her grilling. She avoided questions on concrete actions for the energy transition in Europe.

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What will Brexit mean for climate action in EU and UK?

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