Climate change and the future of Europe

2023-05-24 09:50:00, Sociale CNA

Climate change and the future of Europe

The climate crisis is undoubtedly the biggest challenge of our time. Droughts, widespread forest fires, floods, landslides, coastal degradation and rising temperatures are already part of our present, and will become increasingly common in the future.

Far from theoretical doomsday scenarios, these developments are based on scientific evidence. Moreover, climate change carries an unprecedented social and political explosive force, as it deepens existing social divisions within countries, producing increasingly polarized societies, not only across Europe, but around the world.

Today, it is widely accepted that humanity must take immediate action to mitigate the effects of climate change and correct its causes. At the international level, United Nations Conferences on Climate Change are held annually to assess progress in addressing climate change.

And the reports offer little cause for reassurance. At the COP21 summit in Paris in 2015, it was agreed to keep the rise in global average temperature below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. In recent years, world leaders have emphasized the need to limit global warming to 1.5°C by the end of this century.

The focus is on reducing the amount of greenhouse gases, which are naturally released into the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and livestock, which are increasingly affecting the climate and temperature of the planet. Eight years later, we are still far from achieving this goal. The lack of political will and the cycles of local and national elections seem to repeatedly defeat the fundamental reason for timely action.

Europe's climate strategy

To stop global warming, we must become CO2 neutral worldwide. The European Union's highly ambitious Green Deal sets out environmental standards that will make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, and delink economic growth from resource use.

Through this strategy for achieving climate neutrality, the European Climate Law sets binding EU climate targets for the years 2030-2050. And by passing other laws to implement it, the union will be well-equipped with the necessary regulatory framework to tackle the acute problem of climate change.

But will member states and their regional and local authorities implement it? Many civil society groups express their concerns almost every day, and demand concrete actions instead of words. And will the European Green Deal dictate the setting of international standards?

So far, it is difficult to discern a unified European approach. On the contrary, we are currently seeing a variety of different efforts from country to country, which create uneven national climate and energy plans and promote begging policies towards the most powerful neighbor.

Given the different mix of energy sectors, as well as the unique circumstances and historical backgrounds facing each EU member state, this is hardly surprising. However, given the scale of the crisis, it is insufficient.

We can no longer find refuge in explanations that have already had an insufficient explanatory power even in the past, and that have served as an excuse for inaction. To fulfill Europe's full potential, and to show international leadership in the fight against climate change, a single climate policy is needed instead of a fragmentation of climate competences.

Increasing the production of renewable energy that does not emit CO2 into the atmosphere, reducing independence, and starting the practice of joint energy purchase in the EU, are only the first steps in this direction. Because Europe will need an even more coordinated and long-term approach as soon as possible.

A sustainable social solution

The transition to climate neutrality by 2050 can only work if it happens in a fair and socially sustainable way. Let's not forget that more than 10 percent of Europeans suffer from energy poverty: this number is likely to increase, due to Russia's war in Ukraine and rising prices.

Any transformative European policy must pay special attention to this fact.

The European Union created the Social Climate Fund alongside its climate policies and supports transition regions with the Just Transition Fund to ease the burden on low-income groups.

The social dimensions of the green agenda, and financial assistance to the most vulnerable segments of society, are essential for sustainable and broad public support, as well as to guarantee a stable political environment.

However, much more needs to be done to lift millions of Europeans out of energy and food poverty, and to ensure a just social transformation. Otherwise, Europe's climate strategy and its positive agenda will face widespread rejection.

Although it seems ambitious to achieve the green transition described above in just 2 decades, the goals can still be achieved if there is enough political strength, and if we start to energetically implement our decisions.

However, even if we achieve the goals we set for ourselves, yesterday's world is gone. Therefore, the green transformation must also include a change in our habits, from long-distance travel to energy use, and from energy efficiency to energy conservation.

There is currently progress in all areas of the Green Deal, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reversing biodiversity loss, and furthering the circular economy.

However, Europe must show leadership and show the world that despite the pandemic and Russia's war in Ukraine, it continues to follow a socially just path to climate neutrality by reinventing its model for a social market economy.

Note: Paul Schmidt, Secretary General of the Austrian Association for European Politics. Johannes Pollak, Rector and University Professor of Political Science in the Department of International Relations at the Private University of Vienna Webster. Michael Kaeding, professor of European Integration and European Union Politics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany./ Adapted from CNA.al

Lajmet e fundit nga