Why Europe aims to cut climate change emissions by 90% by 2040

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Despite the growing backlash against Due to climate regulations, the European Union will on Tuesday call for a 90% reduction in emissions by 2040. This goal can only be achieved by eliminating fossil fuels almost completely and overhauling the way people move and get food. food.

This aggressive timeline shows that much of Europe is still committed to ambitious climate regulations, even though other major economies, including the United States, have yet to take binding action. There is. If European countries agree to the 2040 target, the EU will be on track to achieve an even bigger goal of ‘net-zero’ carbon neutrality in 2050.

The EU has long touted the transition as an opportunity rather than a sacrifice, but it is unclear whether it will materialize.

Farmers facing tougher environmental regulations and other challenges have recently staged protests in at least six EU countries. A right-wing party skeptical of some climate change regulations is poised for a big victory in European Parliament elections later this year. The “green rush” is spreading from France to Ireland.

“We’re being intimidated from top to bottom,” said Irish beef farmer Tommy Lane. New rules aimed at reducing organic nitrogen pollution are forcing farmers to consider culling their herds.

The 2040 target is only a recommendation from the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, and must be approved by member states, but there is uncertainty given the political situation. Countries have the right to raise concerns or set lower targets, and discussions will begin next month.

Since announcing the Green Deal in 2019, Europe has positioned itself at the forefront of the global transition, announcing a flurry of climate-friendly policies, targets and rules. The EU now accounts for just 7% of global emissions, up from 13% 20 years ago. The countries also rapidly increased their wind and solar power generation capacity to offset Russian gas import cuts.

However, even with these measures, the EU remains on track to meet its goals, including its first major target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55% compared to 1990 levels by 2030. Not that it was. The EU’s climate advisory committee said last month that cuts need to be “substantially increased” and further progress is needed in areas where changes are likely to be politically unpopular, such as agriculture and building efficiency. It pointed out. For example, people will need to make major renovations to their homes to meet the standards.

Europe’s regulatory approach is very different from that of the United States, and with Congress refusing to support carbon taxes or climate change limits, the Biden administration is looking to expand clean energy with carrots, or financial incentives, rather than sticks. I decided to prioritize.

Polls show that concerns about climate change are higher in most major European countries than in the United States. But polls show that even Europeans are reluctant to take measures that could cause personal financial harm.According to a YouGov poll conducted last year in seven European countries, including the UK, most of the countries surveyed He expressed opposition to increases in fuel taxes and airfares. However, there was widespread support for government subsidies to make homes more energy efficient and a ban on single-use plastics.

In a draft document on the target obtained by The Washington Post, the European Commission appeared to acknowledge the pushback, saying it was not responding to “concerns held by some members of the public or industry players, or some of the individual measures.” I am aware of the backlash.”

“The imperative that this transition be just is at the heart of this work,” the document says. “Climate action must involve everyone.”

Europe asked for feedback when considering its 2040 targets, and received thousands of comments from all sides, including think tanks, businesses and the general public. As an example, German airline giant Lufthansa has written to the European Commission stating that it wants the global playing field to remain “level”, including in aviation, during Europe’s green transition. The Dutch public envisioned the opposite vision. It would impose a tax on airlines and use the revenue from more expensive air travel to improve Europe’s rail systems.

Meanwhile, some stakeholders who wrote to the commission said the entire Green Deal undoes social compensation. An official in the Czech Republic described “bureaucratic Soviet-style intervention” that was harming Europe while other countries refused to play their part in climate change.

This sentiment is boosting centre-right and far-right parties, which are expected to gain seats after the June vote. In a recent policy brief, the European Council on Foreign Relations looked at how a more right-leaning parliament might have blocked recently passed legislation (opposed by farmers) aimed at protecting biodiversity. Outlined. “A significant shift to the right in the new parliament will mean that the ‘anti-climate policy action’ coalition is likely to prevail,” the brief said.

“This would seriously undermine the EU framework.” “Adoption and implementation of the Green Deal framework and common policies to achieve the EU’s net-zero targets,” the report said.

Susi Dennison, senior policy researcher and one of the report’s authors, said early aspects of the Green Deal, such as the emissions trading scheme, felt too complex for most Europeans to register. . But more recent measures, such as the planned ban on conventional gasoline cars in 2035, are more concrete and come at a delicate time when Europeans are already concerned about everyday costs and safety.

“This is the phase we are trying to do: [green measures] It’s going to have a much greater impact on individuals’ lives,” Dennison said. “You’re starting to see some green eyelashes there.”

The most visible signs of concern have come from farmers taking to the streets in several European countries, blaring tractor sirens in Berlin and blocking highways outside Paris. The motives for the protests varied slightly from country to country, but in both France and Germany, farmers were facing cuts to diesel subsidies. Last Thursday, French trade unions called for an end to protests after the government made several concessions.

Still, agricultural groups say they feel that farmers are being targeted by environmental regulations, and that they feel more regulations are likely to follow. Although the EU heavily subsidizes the agricultural sector, emissions from fertilizer use, manure and cow burp have remained roughly flat for many years.

This represented difficult steps ahead for the sector. Some policymakers have gone so far as to suggest that cattle herds need to be reduced and that Europeans should consume less meat.

The agricultural sector rebounded. The Irish Farmers’ Association, where agriculture accounts for 40 per cent of the country’s emissions, says the government’s policy seeks to “regulate farmers going out of business”. At last year’s event, then-association president Tim Cullinan said farmers wanted to play their part in combating climate change, but that “farming is a sacrificial lamb that cuts out cultural activities”. I will not allow that to happen.” as a quick solution to reduce national emissions. ”

Mr Lane, an Irish farmer and local association leader, told in an interview how Ireland had long been exempt from European rules on organic nitrate levels. But that exemption has now expired, and since organic nitrogen is obtained from fertilizers, the only way to address the declining threshold, measured in kilograms per hectare, is to acquire more land or It’s about reducing the number.

“Are the next generation willing to put up with some level of uncertainty? What level of regulation?” Lane said. “Are you going to take a career that doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to survive for the rest of your life?”

Other countries across Europe argue that sticking to green policies is essential and will ultimately pay dividends and help EU industry become a world leader in the energy transition. Additionally, many multinational companies have operations in Europe, and by changing their operations to comply with EU emissions targets, such companies will clean up their operations in the United States and other countries. More likely.

Europe is also experiencing a wave of severe climate disasters, including heatwaves and wildfires. Adhering to most of the goals of the Paris Agreement would mean “significantly fewer economic losses than addressing the impacts of climate change,” said a recent report from Climate Action Network Europe. There is.

“We tried to emphasize the benefits of climate action, but they are not being mentioned enough,” said Olivier Vardakourias, CAN Europe’s fiscal and subsidy policy coordinator. “I think some things are completely ignored in the public discussion.”

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