Five Reasons Europe is Leading on Climate Action

Five Reasons Europe is Leading on Climate Action

15 May 2019 | Original

Being in the Northern hemisphere, Europe is warming up faster than any other continent, sustaining a temperature increase that is 0.9°C higher than the global rate.[1] The past three decades have been the hottest on record for Europe, and the continent has suffered extreme heatwaves in four of the past five years.[2] To meet its climate targets, Europe has developed the following actionable plans outlining five key steps:

  1. The European Green Deal: The EUR 1.8 trillion deal aims to transform the European Union (EU) into the world’s first resource-efficient, climate-neutral continent by 2050. The deal calls for increasing the EU’s 2030 climate target by 50%; revising vehicle taxation; developing a new offshore wind power strategy; providing more support to the circular economy; building a comprehensive network of charging points for electric vehicles; supporting biodiversity; and revising agricultural strategies to cut down on the use of chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and antibiotics. While the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen believes that the deal will be Europe’s ‘man on the moon’ moment, it will not be sufficient if the rest of the world does not fulfill its commitments and achieve their targets.[3]
  2. The EU Taxonomy: The Technical Expert Group on Sustainable Finance released the EU taxonomy in March 2020 as a “tool to help investors understand whether an economic activity is environmentally sustainable, and to navigate the transition to a low-carbon economy.”[4]It provides sustainability criteria for 70 economic activities which produce 93% of Europe’s emissions. More activities will be included by the end of the year, and companies and investors will start disclosing environmental performance in 2022.[5]
  3. The EU Emissions Trading System (ETS): The ETS initiative was developed to help Europe achieve its climate targets under the Kyoto Protocol. It operates in all European countries in addition to Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The ETS, which covers around 45% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, limits emissions from more than 11,000 energy intensive installations and airlines. It is based on a ‘cap and trade’ principle where companies receive or buy emission allowances that can be traded with other companies as needed. Companies can even buy credit from international emission-saving projects around the world. At the end of the year, companies must have enough allowances to cover their emissions or they will be fined.[6]
  4. The Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) Regulation: The LULUCF regulation requires all member states to ensure that accounted emissions from land use are compensated by an equivalent removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. For example, member states have to offset all deforestation either by equivalent afforestation or by improving sustainable management of existing forests.[7] The significance of the LULUCF regulation is that it broadens the scope of governance to include all managed land within the EU, and establishes a new governance process to monitoring emissions and deforestation.[8]
  5. Using the law to enforce climate change action: In June 2020, Denmark enacted one of the most stringent climate laws worldwide. The new law addresses five main challenges that countries face. First, it allows for cross-party support so that Denmark stays on track to meet its climate goals even if governments change. In theory, this means that governments will need to step down if they are not on track. Second, the law targets Denmark’s fair share of emission reductions by 2040. Third, the law aims further beyond Denmark’s fair share to achieve a net-zero climate target by 2050. Fourth, it highlights its commitment to support other countries since climate change is a global problem. And, finally, it ensures that all policies are ‘green-checked’. In addition to tough environmental laws, there is a movement in Denmark that is demanding the incorporation of climate change considerations into its constitution, which could eventually render harmful environmental action illegal.[9]

[1]Euronews. 22 April, 2020. Climate change: Europe warming up faster than the global average after record year in 2019https://www.euronews.com/2020/04/22/eleven-of-the-12-hottest-years-on-record-occurred-since-the-year-2000-study-finds

[2] European Council. Taking the lead on climate change. https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/eu-climate-change/

[3] Fleming, S. 07 February, 2020. Europe Climate Change New Green Deal. WEF https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/02/europe-climate-change-new-green-deal/

[4] PRI. EU Sustainability Finance Taxonomy. https://www.unpri.org/sustainability-issues/eu-sustainable-finance-taxonomy

[5] Climate-Kic. 09 March, 2020. EU Taxonomy shows the way to net zero by 2050. https://www.climate-kic.org/news/eu-taxonomy-shows-the-way-to-net-zero-by-2050/

[6] The European Union. EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/ets_en

[7] European Parliament.(2019). Proposal for a Regulation on the Inclusion of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF) intro the 2030 Climate and Energy Framework. European Parliament.   https://www.europarl.europa.eu/legislative-train/theme-resilient-energy-union-with-a-climate-change-policy/file-jd-lulucf-regulation

[8] European Commission. Land use and forestry regulations from 2021-2030. https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/forests/lulucf_en

[9] Timperley, J. (2020). The Law that Could Make Climate Change Illegal. BBC.  https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200706-the-law-that-could-make-climate-change-illegal