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European Parliament declares ‘climate emergency’ in symbolic act

A clear majority of lawmakers in the European Parliament voted to declare a “climate and environmental emergency” in Europe on Thursday, November 28, 2019 a symbolic act to put EU policymakers under pressure to meet environmental targets.

European Parliament
The European Parliament

The resolution passed with 429 votes in favour and 225 against in the EU legislature in the French city of Strasbourg, with 19 abstentions.

The Oxford dictionary defines climate emergency as “a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it.”

The resolution itself doesn’t foresee any concrete measures.

It urged the European Commission – the EU’s executive branch – “to ensure that all relevant legislative and budgetary proposals are fully aligned with the objective of limiting global warming to under 1.5 degrees Celsius,” parliament said in a statement.

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This limit in temperature rise is the more ambitious target foreseen in the Paris climate agreement based on pre-industrial global temperature averages.

The resolution comes ahead of next week’s COP25 environmental summit in Madrid, where a delegation of EU lawmakers is also to be present.

The head of the environmental committee, Pascal Canfin, said on Thursday he was “proud” to make Europe the first continent to declare a climate emergency.

But environmental organisation Greenpeace, and the hard left GUE/NGL and Green parliamentary groups all stressed the resolution needs to be matched with effective action.

“Holding fossil-fuel companies responsible, investing in rail and public transport, supporting communities investing in renewable energy, banning pesticides and ending subsidies for factory farms are just some of the bold ways to take action now,” Greenpeace’s EU climate adviser, Sebastian Mang, said.

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“Our house is on fire. The European Parliament has seen the blaze, but it’s not enough to stand by and watch,” he added.

The resolution was proposed by the Liberal parliamentary group last week, due to “the sustained rise in global temperatures, peaking greenhouse gas emissions and extreme weather events happening all over Europe.”

It follows several similar declarations from states and cities.

EU lawmakers also passed another resolution on Thursday urging the new commission to up the 2030 emissions reductions target to 55 per cent, from a current target of at least 40 per cent.

However, only a 65-per-cent reduction in emissions by 2030 as compared to 1990 levels can avert “a full-blown climate crisis,” according to Greenpeace.

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The EU must also achieve carbon neutrality by 2040, according to Greenpeace, 10 years sooner than the goal set by incoming commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

The current commission already proposed the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic are opposed.

Von der Leyen has pledged to present her climate plan, the European Green Deal, within her first 100 days as commission president.

She is to take office on Sunday.

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