CONCORD blog on the EU’s 2030 Climate and Energy Package
Photo credit: Oxfam
At the European Spring Council a few weeks ago, leaders kicked off the debate on climate and energy goals for Europe for 2030. While there had been some pushback in the past few months on the need to even hold the discussion, the unfolding events in Ukraine and the conflict in Crimea have catapulted concerns about the EU’s energy dependency on Russia on top of the list. Europe’s 2030 Energy and Climate Package has been injected with a new sense of urgency on an issue that effects not just the EU, but the wider world as well.
Absent from much of the discussion between leaders, however, was the equally immediate issue of climate security and the far broader impacts this will have on hunger, water scarcity and poverty in general. A new report by the International Panel on Climate Change, released on the 31st of March, says that as demand for food increases by 14% every decade, agricultural yields will decrease by 2% in the same period due to erratic climates fuelling poverty and volatile food prices in the process. The news should also worry EU leaders, as over 70% of European food imports come from developing countries, many of which are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Impacts from global warming are already being felt. In 2012, a drought left 18 million people in the Sahel region of West Africa in the midst of a severe food crisis. It was the third in ten years, leaving little time for people to recover before the next one arrived. Food prices increased by 40% at that time and irregular rainfall left little predictability in harvests. The World Bank, in a seminal report on climate impacts in the developing world warned that in a ‘4 degree scenario’ – where we are currently heading without greater climate action – impacts currently witnessed will get worse: sea levels will increase, coastal areas will be inundated, many dry regions will become dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves will occur in many regions – especially in the tropics; water scarcity will substantially exacerbate in many regions due to droughts, salt water intrusion into drinking water reservoirs and melting of glaciers, high-intensity storms such as cyclones will become more frequent and devastate crops; and biodiversity loss will become irreversible, including the loss of coral reef systems on which thousands of fishermen rely.
The upcoming decisions on the EU’s climate and energy ambition for 2030 are crucial to help avoid this out-of-control 4 degree scenario. They matter because the EU as a block is still a substantial emitter of greenhouse gas emissions and we need to reduce those fast. But equally important is the EU’s leadership role it should play ahead of the UN Climate Summit called for by General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon in September 2014, as well as the climate top in Paris in 2015. By demonstrating high ambition at home early on, the EU can show that moving to a low-energy economy powered by sustainable renewables is not only necessary but can actually be done, while bringing many economic, health and societal benefits.
To do so, the EU should move well beyond the current proposal put forward by the European Commission for emissions cuts by 2030 of 40%. With the ‘reference’ scenario leading to emissions cuts of already 32% by 2030, it is not ambitious enough to be proposing further cuts of only 8% over a ten year period. European leaders need to step up ambition, and commit to emission reductions of at least 55%, combined with binding targets on energy savings and sustainable renewable energy. Only by doing this can we expect to stay true to the global commitment to stay below 2 degrees of warming, while keeping the much safer 1.5 degrees within reach.
It is because of the devastating impacts of climate change on developing countries and particularly the poorest, that CONCORD members are stepping up their advocacy on the issue. In early January, we sent a letter to Commission President Barroso during the preparation of the Commission’s proposal. Earlier, CONCORD signed on to a letter with the Spring Alliance too. Ahead of the European Council in March, various members undertook lobby activities, such as Aprodev’s background paper on ‘Why the EU 2030 package is crucial for international development’, CARE’s open letter to Heads of State and Governments ahead of the Spring Council, and CONCORD’s letter to development ministers, accompanied by a lobby paper explaining our key concerns. Oxfam launched a new report on the impacts of climate change on food security, coinciding with a big push on EU leaders to step up ambition.
EU leaders have agreed to make a final decision by October 2014, with key discussions already taking place at the EU Council in June. NGOs across the board are stepping up their actions, and watch out for CONCORD stepping up activities in this space too.
“The lack of action on climate change not only risks putting prosperity out of reach of millions of people in the developing world, it threatens to roll back decades of sustainable development”
Jim Yong Kim
President, the World Bank Group