This brings with it devastating impact to the environment, and by default, people, all over the world. Extreme weather events are becoming more common: floods, forest fires, heat waves. Animals and humans are dying.
Without urgent action the damage will be irreversible and we will begin to see numerous knock on effects, such as food shortages and millions of people displaced.
This will affect us all, as well as future generations to come.
What needs to be done?
We can all make small changes – eating less meat, walking more, rejecting fast fashion. Some of us need to make bigger changes to reduce our carbon footprints - the richest 10% of people produce half of the planet’s individual consumption based fossil fuel emissions (Oxfam, 2015).
However, it is important for the biggest polluters to take responsibility for their actions on a mass scale. And for them to be held to account.
70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988 have come from just 100 companies (CDP, 2017). This must change, and the world’s power structures must facilitate this change.
Where does the EU come into all of this?
The EU has been at the fore of the climate change agenda for many years. This collection of 28 member states, some of them among the richest and most powerful in the world, recently declared a climate emergency. This builds on years of work by EU leaders addressing climate change:
The EU set out its first raft of climate and energy measures in 2008, setting member states strict targets, which are on track to be met. Targets included, by 2020:
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% (compared to 1990)
Increasing the share of renewable energy to 20%
Making a 20% improvement in energy efficiency
In 2014, more goals were set for 2030, including to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% (compared to 1990) – double the previous target.
In 2016, the EU signed the Paris Agreement. Rarely do so many nations agree on a topic, but the Paris Agreement brought 195 signatories to the table to agree that global change was needed. Briefly, the signatories committed to introduce reform aimed at keeping the global temperature increase to below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C, recognizing that this would substantially reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.
In March 2019, the European Commission reported the successful implementation of all 54 actions set out in 2015, which support the EU’s transition to a circular economy. A circular economy is one in which the value of products and materials is maintained for as long as possible, through minimising waste and resource use. A simple example is recycling – using products again at the end of their lives. A circular economy preserves resources, saves costs for industries and creates new jobs, leading to a more sustainable world.
In April 2019, the EU adopted stricter emissions limits for cars and vans, aiming to ensure that from 2030 new cars will emit 37.5% less CO2 and new vans will emit on average 31% less CO2 compared to 2021. Targets have also been set for trucks and heavy-duty vehicles – 30% less emissions by 2030.
The EU has also implemented a ‘clean energy package’. Several pieces of legislation aim to make improvements in energy efficiency, more renewable energy and tighter government regulation.
A Clean Air Programme is in place, setting targets for 2030 in cutting air pollution. Poor air quality kills more than road traffic accidents, and is the top environmental cause of premature deaths in Europe, with over 390 000 premature deaths every year. The targets will help to avoid these deaths, as well as asthma and respiratory problems, and acidic damage to ecosystems.
For real change to happen, we must work together and we must have leaders that see the issues and the ways we need to move forward, no matter how difficult, or unpopular to large corporations. The EU is a powerful union of leaders who can affect real change.
This week, the EU is leading the world in climate talks in Madrid, driving progression, solutions and accountability.
What’s Labour doing?
Labour MEPs have long been representing UK citizens in the EU Parliament – supporting progressive legislation and affecting change. Labour MEPs have been instrumental in fighting for progressive EU legislation to implement the Paris Agreement, namely the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF). Their work also includes campaigning for:
Wood being used in construction as an alternative to concrete to maintain carbon sequestration in timber
Planting more trees to store carbon
Protecting forests and wetland.
The Labour Party’s Manifesto reflects that commitment and pledges a Green Industrial Revolution. If elected, Labour pledge to plant 2 billion trees before 2040, vastly increasing our tree cover. Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution will create one million jobs in the UK, transforming industry, energy, transport, agriculture and our buildings, whilst restoring nature.
What about the North East?
Whilst we may feel a million miles away from the benches of Westminster or the halls of Brussels, the North East benefits hugely from EU action around climate change, and your Labour MEP’s are committed to ensuring the North East is not neglected.
Organisations across the region benefit from EU funding, directly impacting positively on our communities. For example, in 2000, the largest offshore wind turbines in the world were opened off the coast of Blyth, Northumberland. Harnessing the benefits of being one of the windiest countries in Europe, the wind farm has been producing enough electricity to power 3,000 households since it opened. The £4 million project received financial support from the European Commission.
Further, if elected, Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution will create 80,000 jobs in the North East alone, through a £9 billion direct public investment in green technologies of the future.
Members of our current government talk about “pointless EU rules”. We don’t see anything pointless about belonging to a powerful union of countries that are at the forefront of the fight against one of the biggest emergencies our world has faced: climate change.