European Parliament declares climate emergency
By Frédéric Simon, Nov 28, 2019
The European Parliament voted by a large majority on Thursday (28 November) in favour of a resolution declaring climate emergency in Europe, piling pressure on the EU’s new Commission to deliver an ambitious European Green Deal after it takes office next month.
The resolution was adopted by 429 votes in favour, 225 against and 19 abstentions during a plenary vote in Strasbourg.
“We are today meeting the expectations of European citizens,” said Pascal Canfin, a French lawmaker who initiated the Parliament resolution on behalf of the centrist Renew Europe political group.
“Europe is the first continent to declare climate and environmental emergency,” said Canfin who is also the chairman of the European Parliament’s powerful environment committee.
“And it’s a very strong message, first to European citizens and to the rest of the world, just before COP25, and three weeks after Donald Trump confirmed the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement,” he told reporters after the vote.
Among the dissenters were some members of the right-wing European People’s Party (EPP), the largest group in parliament.
“There is an urgency to act, but no state of emergency to declare,” said EPP deputy Peter Liese, warning against giving an impression of “panic”.
The Greens in the European Parliament, who initially criticised the resolution’s lack of substance, ended up broadly supporting the motion, which took some of their amendments on board.
“This is huge!” said Michael Bloss, a Green MEP who was initially critical of the Parliament motion. “History in the making,” the group said on Twitter, claiming it had taken the lead on the issue.
The Parliament resolution puts further pressure on the incoming European Commission presided by Ursula von der Leyen to deliver an ambitious European Green Deal, with higher carbon reduction targets for 2030.
Von der Leyen has pledged to turn Europe into “the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050,” saying she will propose raising the EU’s climate objective to a 50-55% cut in carbon emissions by 2030, up from 40% currently.
But some say even a 55% target isn’t enough. Green MEP Michael Bloss called on the EU executive to put forward a target of “at least 65% by 2030” in the EU’s upcoming climate law. “The outcry of science and the Fridays for Future movement must no longer go unheard,” the German MEP said.
Canfin heeded those calls, saying the Parliament resolution sent “a very clear message” to the European Commission: “The Green Deal has to match the expectations” of EU citizens and “deliver on the climate and environmental emergency”.
“We expect a Green Deal which is aligned with the 55%” carbon reduction target for 2030, Canfin told reporters after the vote, saying he expected “a broad majority” on the 55% objective in the European Parliament.
“We raise the bar in order to have something that matches what’s needed,” he said. But he warned that going beyond 55% wouldn’t be politically feasible.
“If we can go beyond that, I have nothing against. But I think [55%] it’s the right target. Always asking for more won’t bring you a majority. At this stage, there is no majority to go beyond that,” he said.
Climate activists at CAN Europe, for their part, published a report on Thursday looking at the commitments taken by EU member states as part of their draft National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs).
The draft national plans were deemed insufficient by the European Commission when it published a preliminary assessment earlier in June, pointing to “substantial” gaps on renewables and energy efficiency in particular. EU countries have until the end of December to submit their final versions.
But the environmental NGO described the latest updated drafts as weak. “Member states still have one month to ensure higher ambition in their final NECPs. It is high time for them to bring their plans closer to the Paris Agreement goals,” CAN Europe said.
“The clock is ticking as the deadline for the finalisation of the plans – the end of this year – is approaching.”