Greta Thunberg condemns EU climate change plan as 'surrender'

Swedish environmental activist meets with EU officials in Brussels

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Wednesday 04 March 2020 13:36 GMT
Greta Thunberg condemns EU climate change plan as 'surrender'

The EU's plan to stop climate change is so weak that it amounts to "surrender", Greta Thunberg has said.

Speaking at the European Parliament in Brussels the environmental campaigner said the climate law unveiled by the bloc amounted to "empty words".

"You said that this was an existential treat, now you must prove that you mean it," she said at a press conference.

"We will not be satisfied with anything less than a science-based pathway that gives us the best possible chance to safeguard the future living conditions for humanity and life on earth as we know it.

"Anything else is surrender: this climate law is surrender, because nature doesn't bargain, and you cannot make deals with physics. We will not allow you to surrender on our future."

The high-profile 17-year old Swedish activist, who has acted as a lightning rod of the climate movement, accused the EU nations of "pretending that you can be a climate leader" while it continues "building and subsidising new fossil fuel infrastructure".

The EU has agreed a package of measures to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the same as the UK's target. The UN's climate authority the IPCC says that globally, carbon emissions must be cut to net zero by 2050 in order to limit global warming to 1.5C.

While global warming of 1.5C will still have significant negative effects, the effects are less pronounced than if warming reached 2.0C. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says.

Some countries have decided to go to net zero faster; Finland has said it will achieve the target by 2035.

The less ambitious 2050 target is controversial for developed countries like EU member states because under the Paris climate agreement, richer countries are expected to take the lead in decarbonising their economies.

Ms Thunberg added: "We don't just need goals for 2030 or 2050, we above all need them for 2020 and every year to come. We need to start cutting carbon emissions drastically at the source, now. Your distant targets will mean nothing is high emissions continue for business as usual even for just a few more years, because that will use up our remaining carbon budget before you have the chance to even deliver on your 2030 goals."

"When your house is on fire you don't wait a few more years to start putting it out. And yet, this is what the Commission are proposing today," Ms Thunberg said, following a meeting with Commission president Ursula von der Leyen earlier in the day.

"When the EU presents this climate law and net zero by 2050 you indirectly admit surrender: that you are giving up on the Paris agreement, giving up on your promises and giving up on doing everything that you possibly can to ensure a safe future for your children."

The activist added: "Such a law sends a strong signal that real sufficient action is taking place when in fact it is not. The hard truth is that neither the awareness not politics needed are in sight. We are still in a crisis that has never once been treated for a crisis."

The European Parliament has closed its doors and cancelled most of its events due to the the coronavirus threat, however Ms Thunberg's visit was allowed to proceed. The visit coincides with the European Commission's adoption of the EU's new climate law.

President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “We are acting today to make the EU the world’s first climate neutral economic bloc by 2050. The Climate Law is the legal translation of our political commitment, and sets us irreversibly on the path to a more sustainable future. It is the heart of the European Green Deal.”

Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, added: “We are turning words into action today, to show our European citizens that we are serious about reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Climate Law will ensure we stay focused and disciplined, remain on the right track and are accountable for delivery.”

The law proposes the legally binding 2050 target, and sets targets for the amount of carbon member states should reduce by 2030. From 2023 there would be five-yearly audits by Brussels on the progress member states were making towars the target.

The new law, which has to formally approved by MEPs and member states, also allows the Commission to issue recommendations to EU countries whose actions are "inconsistent with the climate-neutrality objective".

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