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5th Jul 2020

EU 'failing' on climate and gender equality

  • EU economy commissioner for economy. 'Progress towards the EU's climate and energy targets as well as the shift towards a circular economy have slowed, while ecosystems and biodiversity remain under pressure from human activities,' said Eurostat

The European Union's statistical office revealed on Monday (22 June) that the bloc is struggling to make progress on both the fight against climate change and gender inequality.

In a new report on progress in reaching the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Eurostat confirmed that the bloc has significantly reduced poverty and improved health during the past five years.

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However, it also noted that little progress was achieved towards environmental objectives.

"Progress towards the EU's climate and energy targets as well as the shift towards a circular economy have slowed, while ecosystems and biodiversity remain under pressure from human activities," said Eurostat.

While the EU achieved its 20 percent CO2 emissions reduction target by 2020, past progress indicates that the bloc is not on track to meet its 40 percent emission reduction target by 2030 - which might be increased by at least 50 to 55 percent by the end of the year.

According to the report, the bloc's emissions were reduced by 2.7 percent from 2013 to 2018 but temperatures keep rising.

The decade from 2009 to 2018 was the hottest on record in Europe with an average temperature deviation of 1.6 degrees to 1.7 degrees above pre-industrial times - and an increase of 0.2 degrees on the preceding decade.

Additionally, the report revealed that Belgium is "moving away" from the goals.

Estonia, Ireland Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Finland are also moving away from the goals, although they still maintain high environmental standards.

EU commissioner for economy Paolo Gentiloni said at a press conference on Monday that the fight against climate change is a priority for the EU executive while admitting that "there are still challenges".

"Yes, we took very good decisions. Yes, we are committed. Yes, we are at the forefront on the goals for 2020 and 2030, but we still have the consequences of climate change in place," said Gentiloni.

"We will collectively need more sustainable and resilient societies. This is a lesson of the past months," he added.

The director of the European branch of WWF, Ester Asin, warned that the EU needs "an overarching strategy with clear mechanisms and accountability" to live up to the UN 2030 agenda.

"At a time when the EU and its member states are devising their recovery strategies from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is especially important that recovery plans help tackle social inequalities, climate change and nature loss," she said.

"The SDGs [sustainable development goals] have never been more relevant in pointing the way - both in Europe and globally," she added.

'Long way to go' on gender

Meanwhile, the report reveals that there is unbalanced participation of women and men in education, the labour market and in leadership positions in the EU.

Gentiloni described this trend as "very concerning" and acknowledged that the situation could worsen due to the coronavirus pandemic and related lockdowns.

"We will have to look at the consequences of the months behind us," he said.

"We should pay particular attention to the gender gap in our activity, but also in the in the country-specific recommendations," he added.

Looking at the representation of women in politics, Gentiloni welcomed the increasing number of female lawmakers in national parliaments but insisted "there is still a long way to go".

Additionally, the report indicates that Poland, Malta Slovakia and Cyprus are "moving away" from the gender-equality goals - followed by Croatia and Bulgaria.

The 2030 agenda for sustainable development, which is based on 17 goals, was adopted in 2015 at the United Nations General Assembly.

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