Sunday

23rd Feb 2020

Arrests as Extinction Rebellion protests hit EU capitals

  • Ten EU countries last week blocked an attempt to raise EU's emissions-cut targets, from 40 percent to 55 percent (Photo: Julian Meehan)

Several environmental activists from the green activist group 'Extinction Rebellion' were arrested on Monday (7 October) as the cross-Europe network demanded government action in support of the climate emergency and a commitment to reducing the impact of climate change.

The UK-founded group's demands have received the support of civil society and other environmental organisations across Europe.

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Several activists were arrested across European capitals - for erecting a tent camp on one of the main roads of Amsterdam, blocking the traffic in Berlin, occupying a shopping centre in Paris and barricading themselves to vehicles in Westminster.

"We're sorry. We don't want to disrupt you, your families and your loved ones but the inaction of our governments on the climate and ecological emergency is a death sentence. We are terrified, we are angry and we have to #ActNow," the group tweeted.

During the next few weeks, demonstrations by Extinction Rebellion activists are expected in more than 60 cities around the globe including London, Brussels, New York, Buenos Aires, Sydney, Cape Town, and Mumbai.

Cutting fossil fuel funding

More than 60 NGOs condemned on Monday the draft Energy Lending Policy published by the European Investment Bank (EIB) in July, and asked European financial institutions and stakeholders to align their operations with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

At the Paris climate conference in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally-binding global climate deal to keep the increase in global temperature well below 2°C and pursue efforts to keep it to 1.5°C.

"The proposed changes run counter to the spirit of the EIB's draft proposal and to the EU's proposed overall goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050," states the letter sent to the president of the EIB, Werner Hoyer.

Civil society demands the EIB to stop financing fossil fuel projects and to revise the 'vague language' of European policies that create loopholes in favour of the fossil fuel industry.

"We are concerned that (…) predominantly fossil gas projects may still be eligible to receive financing," according to the letter.

The EIB will play an important role in the energy transmission of the European Union, that is why it should go fossil-free and not subsidise fossil fuel projects whose lifetime is likely to extend into the second half of this century, the letter concludes.

Disagreement on climate goals

In a climate-neutral scenario, all industries based on burning fossil fuels will have to transform within three decades, using cleaner energies.

In 2014, the EU set an emissions reduction target of at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

The European parliament passed a resolution to update the EU's target, reducing emission from the current 40 percent to 55 percent by 2030.

EU Commission president-elected Ursula von der Leyen also said that the increase of emission cuts is necessary "to achieve real impact" and fundamental for "Europe [in order] to become the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050".

However, not all member states go along with her.

EU environment ministers failed on Friday to agree to increase the EU 2030 climate target, after 10 EU member states (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, and Romania) blocked the attempt in the EU council.

Earlier this year, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland also refused to sign up a text concerning the objective climate-neutral EU by 2050.

"Why should we decide 31 years ahead of time what will happen in 2050?," said then Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, who questioned why Europe should take responsibility, while emissions are increasing in other countries, such as China.

The outgoing commissioner for climate, Miguel Arias Cañete, said on Friday that under current EU laws on renewables and energy efficiency, the bloc's 28 governments have to cut emissions around 45 percent by 2030.

However, climate campaigners and scientists said that this figure is not enough to avoid extreme weather, rising sea levels, and biodiversity losses.

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.

EU leaders fly in for UN climate emergency summit

A report presented to the UN climate action summit on Monday shows the gap between targets set up to tackle climate change, and the actual reality - as an urgent call to action for the politicians attending the summit.

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.

EP president threatens MEP with sanctions over a tweet

The president of the European parliament, David Sassoli, has threatened the leader the leftist GUE/NGL group, Manon Aubry, over a tweet in which she encouraged the eco-activist group Extinction Rebellion to occupy the European parliament.

Warning of agricultural 'digital arms race' in EU

Europe is on the verge of allowing centralisation and concentration of farming data at an unprecedented scale, with the absence of any regulation, NGO Friends of the Earth have warned.

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

The UK is leaving the EU after playing a key role in climate action - just as COP26 comes to Glasgow. With so many policy negotiations ahead, a split between London and Brussels post-Brexit could undermine the 2050 emissions-neutrality goal.

Timmermans: EU climate law will 'discipline' rogue states

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