Calls for concrete climate action as EU turns 60 

Intro

As the European Union celebrates its 60th anniversary, leaders from environmental organisations, trade unions, development NGOs and women’s groups have signed a statement recognising Europe’s achievements and highlighting what still needs to be achieved, notably in terms of putting the EU on a path to a sustainable future. Climate action, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing air pollution, would be a significant step on the way to achieving this goal. In a separate statement, a group of former commissioners, ministers, scientists, civil society and policymakers from across Europe have called on EU leaders to live up to the commitments made under the Paris climate deal. But, as a report from the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue highlights, a shift away from fossil fuels to renewables is needed at an international level if the targets of the Paris agreement are to be met. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who wants to use Germany’s presidency of the G20 to boost the clean energy transition, underlined to business leaders that: “climate change cannot be fought with fences and isolation”. And business executives need little persuading of the need for action, publishing with scientists their own call, urging the world’s leading economies to put global warming back on the G20 agenda after finance ministers and central bankers failed to reaffirm their readiness to finance measures against climate change. The statement includes the stark warning that: “climate change represents one of the largest risks to sustainable development, inclusiveness, equitable economic growth and financial stability”.

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Key Points

  • The EU has been a climate action leader in recent years, but needs to step up the pace if is to live up to the Paris climate deal commitments. This means fostering real climate action at home and abroad, embracing the move to clean energy and focusing on the benefits this will bring to people and the planet.
  • Climate change is a global issue and all countries have a role to play. The EU can and should take a lead in tackling climate change and helping countries adapt to its effects, which are already apparent around the world. However, as German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told business leaders this week “climate change cannot be fought with fences and isolation”, but rather needs “international cooperation.” Business executives are convinced of this need, but it remains to be seen if fossil fuels addicts like US President Donald Trump are able to take their heads out of the sand.
  • New research shows that climate denial is bad for the planet and for companies’ bottom line. Analysis from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and IRENA affirms that £1.3 trillion (€1.5 trillion) in oil and gas assets are at risk of being stranded if climate action is delayed. As James Thornton, Chief Executive of the legal NGO ClientEarth says: “The old fossil fuel business model is dead.” He warns that unless companies “take their heads out of the sand” and “take the energy transition seriously” they risk “badly misleading the market”.

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KEY QUOTES

“Energy policy is an issue that cannot be discussed within national borders. Climate change cannot be fought with fences and isolation, rather it needs international cooperation. We need exchanges between politics, science and the economy, across national borders.” – German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.
“We now have two world-leading authorities on energy supply accepting that the Paris Agreement requires a deep transformation of the entire energy system – with major consequences for financial markets. It is now undeniable that the risks and opportunities of this energy transformation are reasonably foreseeable. – ClientEarth Chief Executive James Thornton.

“The old fossil fuel business model is dead. Fossil fuel companies must pull their heads out of the sand, adapt their business models in line with the Paris targets,  stop funding climate denial and withdraw from trade associations that are actively undermining climate policy. They must be realistic in their forecasts and take the energy transformation seriously or risk badly misleading the market. Companies, directors and investors would be reckless not to consider these findings. High-profile and costly litigation is waiting for those who don’t.” – ClientEarth Chief Executive James Thornton.

“Climate change represents one of the largest risks to sustainable development, inclusiveness, equitable economic growth and financial stability. We need to be sure that (G20 leaders) will fulfill existing international climate-related commitments, foremost the Paris Agreement.” – G20’s outreach organizations for business (B20), think tanks (T20) and civil society groups (C20).