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European Union continues to lead global fight against #ClimateChange

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On 11 September, the European Commission adopted a Communication reaffirming the EU's commitment to accelerated climate ambition. Preparing for the Climate Action Summit by the United Nations Secretary General in New York on 23 September, the Commission recalls that the European Union has been at the forefront of global climate action, negotiating an inclusive international framework to respond to this challenge, while acting domestically with unity, speed and decisiveness. The EU has put concrete actions behind its Paris Agreement commitments, in line with the Juncker Commission priority of establishing an Energy Union with a forward-looking climate change policy.

Commission Energy Union Vice President Maroš Šefčovič said: “With the Paris Agreement, for the first time all parties committed to reduce emissions. Now we must make sure these reductions are timely enough to avoid the worst of the climate crisis. The European Union will bring to New York the fruit of our work on the Energy Union: a realistic perspective of a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, backed by ambitious policies set in binding legislation. The EU has ensured that all sectors contribute to the transition. At the Climate Action Summit, we hope our plans will inspire other countries, and we hope to be inspired. Our message is simple: Europe delivers.”

Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said: "The European Union has a powerful story to tell at the UN Climate Summit later this month. We are a global climate leader and our climate action is an outstanding example of delivery, including in the context of our Long Term Strategy process. The EU's approach is to ensure that climate ambition is not only about headline targets, but about actual delivery on our promises, about making sure that objectives will be fulfilled and emissions reductions will happen. As shown by the EU-wide survey published today, our approach has a very strong mandate from our citizens. I am proud to share these messages also in New York.”

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The European Union is the first major economy to put in place a legally binding framework to deliver on its pledges under the Paris Agreement and it is successfully transitioning towards a low emissions economy, with a view to reach climate neutrality by 2050. Ambitious climate action enjoys strong democratic support. According to the latest special Eurobarometer on climate change as published today, 93% of Europeans believe that climate change is a serious problem.

Moreover, the EU and its member states, true to their commitment to multilateral action rooted in science, are actively preparing to communicate by early 2020 a long-term strategy with the objective of achieving climate neutrality by 2050, as proposed by the Commission. The Commission presented its vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy in November 2018 and a large majority of member states endorsed this vision in June 2019. According to the Eurobarometer, 92% of Europeans supported making the EU climate-neutral by 2050. Under the Paris Agreement, all parties have to present a long-term strategy by 2020.

Background

The EU continues to deliver on its commitments.

The EU has the most comprehensive and ambitious legislative framework on climate action in place and it is successfully transitioning towards a low emissions economy, aiming at climate neutrality by 2050 – between 1990 and 2017 its greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by 23% while the economy grew by 58%.

The EU has already over-achieved its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target and has completed its unique binding legislative framework that will allow us to over-deliver on our climate targets for 2030. At the same time, the EU Adaptation Strategy has encouraged national, regional and local adaptation action since 2013.

Conscious that our emissions make up only around 9% of the global total, the EU is continuing its outreach and co-operation, financial and technical, to all partner countries. The EU remains the world's leading donor of development assistance and the world's biggest climate finance donor. Providing over 40% of the world's public climate finance, the EU and its member states' contributions have more than doubled since 2013, exceeding €20 billion annually.

Strong support from citizens

Ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit, the Commission carried out a special Eurobarometer on climate action and energy, which shows that in all EU Member States, citizens overwhelmingly support action taken to fight climate change, and want the EU and national leaders to increase their ambitions in this regard and strengthen Europe's energy security.

The Eurobarometer shows that 93% of Europeans believe that climate change is a ‘serious problem', and 79% see it as a ‘very serious problem'. Compared with the last Eurobarometer in 2017, climate change has overtaken international terrorism in being perceived as the second most serious problem facing the world today, after poverty, hunger and lack of drinking water.

The proportion of European citizens who have taken personal action to fight climate change has increased in all EU Member States to an EU wide average of more than nine in ten citizens (93%). The Eurobarometer results also show a demand for national governments to step up their own targets for energy efficiency and renewable energy (92%), and to give more public funding to renewable energy (84%). A strong majority of Europeans (72%) feel that reducing energy imports will have a positive impact on the economy and energy security, and 92% believe that EU must secure access to energy for all EU citizens.

More information

Communication on the 2019 Climate Action Summit hosted by the United Nations Secretary General in New York

Special Eurobarometer on Climate Change with member state specific factsheets

Special Eurobarometer on Energy with member state specific factsheets

Clean planet for all communication

The Energy Union: From vison to reality

Factsheet on the new legislative framework for energy and climate action

Climate change

We have to fight global warming much faster - Merkel

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Not enough has been done to reduce carbon emissions to help tackle global warming, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured) said last week, writes Kirsti Knolle, Reuters.

"This is not only true for Germany but for many countries in the world," Merkel told a news conference in Berlin, adding that it was important to implement measures compatible with climate goals in the Paris agreement.

Merkel, who stands down as chanceller later this year, said she had devoted much energy during her political career on climate protection but was very aware of the need for much speedier action.

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As floods hit western Europe, scientists say climate change hikes heavy rain

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A cyclist drives through a flooded street following heavy rainfalls in Erftstadt-Blessem, Germany, July 16, 2021. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen
Firefighters walk a flooded street following heavy rainfalls in Erftstadt-Blessem, Germany, July 16, 2021. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen

The extreme rainfall causing deadly flooding across western Germany and Belgium has been so alarming, many across Europe are asking if climate change is to blame, write Isla Binnie and Kate Abnett.

Scientists have long said that climate change will lead to heavier downpours. But determining its role in last week's relentless downpours will take at least several weeks to research, scientists said on Friday.

"Floods always happen, and they are like random events, like rolling the dice. But we've changed the odds on rolling the dice," said Ralf Toumi, a climate scientist at Imperial College London.

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Since the rainfall began, water has burst riverbanks and cascaded through communities, toppling telephone towers and tearing down homes along its path. At least 157 people have been killed and hundreds more were missing as of Saturday (17 July).

The deluge shocked many. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the floods a catastrophe, and vowed to support those affected through these "difficult and scary times."

In general the rising average global temperature – now about 1.2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average – makes heavy rainfall more likely, according to scientists.

Warmer air holds more moisture, which means more water will be released eventually. More than 15 centimetres (6 inches) of rain soaked the German city of Cologne on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"When we have this heavy rainfall, then the atmosphere is almost like a sponge - you squeeze a sponge and the water flows out," said Johannes Quaas, professor of Theoretical Meteorology at Leipzig University.

A 1-degree rise in average global temperature increases the atmosphere's capacity to hold water by 7%, climate scientists have said, raising the chance of heavy rainfall events.

Other factors including local geography and air pressure systems also determine how specific areas are affected.

Geert Jan van Oldenborgh of World Weather Attribution, an international scientific network that analyses how climate change might have contributed to specific weather events, said he expected it could take weeks to determine a link between the rains and climate change.

"We're quick, but we're not that quick," said van Oldenborgh, a climate scientist at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.

Early observations suggest the rains might have been encouraged by a low-pressure system parked over western Europe for days, at it was blocked from moving on by high pressure to the east and north.

The floods follow just weeks after a record-breaking heatwave killed hundreds of people in Canada and the United States. Scientists have since said that extreme heat would have been "virtually impossible" without climate change, which had made such an event at least 150 times more likely to occur.

Europe also has been unusually hot. The Finnish capital of Helsinki, for example, just had its most scorching June on record since 1844.

This week's rains have smashed rainfall and river-level records in areas of western Europe.

Though researchers have been predicting weather disruption from climate change for decades, some say the speed with which these extremes are hitting has taken them by surprise.

"I am scared that it seems to be happening so quickly," said Hayley Fowler, a hydroclimatologist at Newcastle University in Britain, noting the "seriously record-breaking events all over the world, within weeks of each other."

Others said the rainfall was not such a surprise, but that the high death toll suggested areas lacked effective warning and evacuation systems to cope with extreme weather events.

"Rainfall doesn't equal disaster," said Imperial College London's Toumi. "What's really disturbing is the number of fatalities. ... It's a wake-up call."

The European Union this week proposed a raft of climate policies aimed at slashing the bloc's planet-warming emissions by 2030.

Slashing emissions is crucial for slowing climate change, said Stefan Rahmstorf, an oceanographer and climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

"We have already a warmer world with melting ice, rising seas, more extreme weather events. That will be with us and with the next generations," Rahmstorf said. "But we can still prevent it from getting much worse."

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Climate change

European Climate Pact Day of Action

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Today (29 June), Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans participates in the Climate Pact Day of Action. This one-day digital event aims to raise awareness of the opportunities provided by the European Climate Pact for pledging individual and collective climate action, sharing uplifting stories and connecting people to actions in their own country and local community. The programme includes a main event, separate launches in different EU countries, matchmaking and expert advice, and a workshop bringing together young people aged 15-30 from all around Europe to create innovative projects together. The European Climate Pact is an EU-wide initiative inviting people, communities and organisations to participate in climate action and build a greener Europe, each taking steps in their own worlds to build a more sustainable planet. Launched in December 2020, the Pact is part of the European Green Deal, and is helping the EU to meet its goal to be the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050. For more information and to register, visit the Climate Pact Day of Action and the Youth Climate Pact Challenge webpages.

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