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Analysis

5 points C4 climate debate should make about staying in EU

by Rachel Franklin | 28.11.2019

The environment does not respect state boundaries. From the plastics in our oceans through to carbon dioxide in the air we breathe, Brexiters’ fabled “Global Britain” cannot fight the climate crisis alone. International action is essential if we are to preserve biodiversity, protect the planet and promote a sustainable economy.

International agreements are hard to reach and even harder to enforce, especially with Donald Trump in the White House and seeking to undermine the Paris climate agreement of 2015. However, the EU is a bright light in a gloomy climate world. It has bold and ambitious plans for collective action to turn things around, an issue the new Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, has pledged to prioritise. Here are five key steps the EU is taking to lead the climate agenda:

1. Become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050

The European Commission plans to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. This goes beyond the EU’s 2030 targets, which aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40%, increase the share of renewable energy to at least 32%, and increase energy efficiency to at least 32.5%. The plans benefit consumers as well as the planet; increasing Europe’s energy security, making energy more affordable, improving air quality (thereby reducing associated health risks, such as respiratory diseases) and creating new green jobs. What’s more, the European Parliament is already calling for the EU to be more ambitious in its 2030 targets, aiming for a 55% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. 

2. Invest 25% of all expenditure on a greener future for Europe

From 2014-2020 the EU committed a record €206bn for climate-related expenditure, investing in everything from funding innovation in green technology through to measures to curb aviation, agricultural and maritime emissions. But the Commission has plans to up the ante in the next EU budget with a whopping €320bn directed at climate goals. This would mean that one in every four euros spent by the EU would be tied to securing a better future for the environment. If the UK is to shape how this money is spent and to reap its benefits, we need to be round the table.

3. Invest in and lead on climate action around the world

The EU is already the largest provider of overseas development assistance – with funding worth over €74bn last year alone. The EU is also a world leader in climate finance for developing nations, with the largest proportion of the funding going to adaptation to provide sustainable solutions to the future and not just mitigating the present. Last month the EU launched the International Platform on Sustainable Finance, bringing together a group of countries from China to India to coordinate efforts to invest in the green transition and expanding the EU’s capacity to influence green investment. Ursula von der Leyen, the incoming Commission President, is also planning on progressing the green agenda in third countries by introducing taxes if the EU’s climate standards have not been met. 

4. European Green Deal

At the heart of the EU’s plans is a European Green Deal, which will outline a new strategy to ensure that Europe’s industrial strategy is one that provides environmentally sustainable jobs for the future. The approach isn’t one of piecemeal targets but takes a holistic view of the challenges we face and seeks to catalyse behavioural and systemic shifts in Europe’s economy and environment alike. 

5. New Biodiversity Strategy for 2030

The EU was a pioneer in identifying and implementing measures to save honeybees from the brink of extinction and has championed the precautionary principle in response to potential environmental threats, from introducing a moratorium on fracking through to the regulation of chemicals (known as REACH). This is much bemoaned by Brexiters who prefer riskier, more cavalier approaches. The European Commission intends to build on its previous work on preserving biodiversity by bringing forward a new strategy to “curtail biodiversity loss within the next five years”. The strategy aims to address issues from environmental degradation and the use of pesticides through to industrial emissions and plastics in our oceans. 

The EU has long been at the forefront of environmental progress, with Britain playing a crucial role in leading and shaping the way forwards. Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley Johnson has even been a leading campaigner for the EU approach. With so much at stake, it’s a role we shouldn’t give up and one worth fighting for.

Edited by Bill Emmott

3 Responses to “5 points C4 climate debate should make about staying in EU”

  • I find it quite surprising that so few people have made the connection of how Brexit will contribute to climate change.
    If we are trying to reduce CO2 emissions, how can it make sense to downgrade access to your most local market? To compensate for the extra barriers and obstacles in the way of trade with Europe, it comes as no surprise that the Government is urgently trying to open up other markets in more distant corners of the planet?
    Whilst all commercial transport modes involve some carbon emissions,
    it is obvious there will have to be far greater reliance on the most polluting form,
    air travel, if we are reliant on markets in other continents.
    It is therefore little wonder that the Government is supporting expansion of Heathrow, and that includes support from one Boris Johnson, who said he’d lie in front of bulldozers (another threat to his physical well being) rather than see the extra runway built.

  • Not actually very sure the average Brexiteer is sufficiently switched on re climate change to let that sort of arguments make her or him waver from electing Mr Nice Guy, you know, the blond toilet brush, back into NR. 10.

  • @ Peter vdM – True you are not going to convince the hardcore Brexit wackos, but its about convincing enough people at the margins, where the climate change issue may hold sway. So far, the politicians don’t seem to be making the connection between climate change and Brexit.