UN Secretary-General: EU must lead the fight against climate change

(lifePR) ( Berlin, )
“It is essential that the European Union commits to reducing emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030”, said António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, in his speech today at a special virtual event hosted by the pan-European think-tank the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“By fully implementing its ‘Green Deal’ and ‘Next Generation EU’, and by mainstreaming climate change into its long-term budget, the European Union can show the world how to move towards climate neutrality and climate resilience while ensuring prosperity and a just transition“, he told an audience that included ministers from France, Germany, Poland and Spain.

With little over a year to go before COP26, and with a European recovery plan already under way, the intervention by the UN secretary-general for a greener future has come not a moment too soon. As ECFR’s public opinion surveys in 2020 showed, EU citizens care deeply about the climate and want Europe to create a greener future.

In welcoming the UN secretary-general, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, Polish Climate Minister Michal Kurtyka, French Ecological Transition Minister Barbara Pompili, and German State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Energy Andreas Feicht, ECFR is launching its work on the geopolitics of the European Green Deal. ECFR’s experts are shaping how policymakers seize the historic opportunity to re-tool Europe’s foreign, security, economic, and trade policies.

Europeans will no longer be able to treat climate policy as being unaffected by broader geopolitical and geo-economic trends. As shown in ECFR’s soon-to-be-released publications on the geopolitical implications of the European Green Deal and on the EU-China climate relations, ECFR’s key recommendations for EU leaders as they meet in December to agree on emissions targets for 2030 are:

There is, for the first time, a historic convergence at the international level with the path that Europe has laid out for re-tooling its economy under the European Green Deal. This represents a clear opportunity, both for the EU and for advancing the goal of decarbonisation globally.
One of the biggest strengths of the EU is its internal market of 450 million people. By conditioning access to its market on compliance with strict environmental regulations, the EU would give countries that export to it a strong incentive to ‘green’ their production processes.
The EU should establish a global coalition for CO2 emissions removal, aiming to promote international cooperation in the field. The coalition should include countries, companies, and international organisations that are willing to jointly invest in afforestation and reforestation activities across the world, research and innovation, and demonstration projects for technology-based solutions.
The EU should become a global reference point on the socio-economic dimensions of decarbonisation. At the forefront of this effort, the EU is the first to deal with the socio-economic effects of decarbonisation.
The EU should support the energy transition its southern neighbourhood and promote the reorganisation of the region’s political economy – without simply facilitating the installation of ‘green’ authoritarian regimes. In its engagement with developing countries vulnerable to the impact of climate change, the EU should do more to support adaptation.
To decrease dependence on China and offset the country’s weaponisation of its control of rare-earth materials, the EU and its member states should make strategic investments in this area by pooling their research resources and coordinating with their partners, especially Japan, Canada, the US, and other countries.

Susi Dennison, director of the European Power programme, says:

“By providing global leadership, the EU will be able to set standards, maintain technological leadership, and set an example of combining emissions reductions with maintaining prosperity and delivering on sustainable growth.

To do this, the EU’s leaders will need to understand the national politics and geopolitics around delivering the climate agenda, to chart a way through the complex environment.” 

Janka Oertel, director of ECFR’s Asia programme, says:

“Beijing has now pledged a clear target for decarbonising its economy. If followed through, this will be one of the most important individual contributions to tackling climate change and will create momentum for ambitious action worldwide.

At the same time, it will also exert pressure on Europe to remain able to compete in the global economy of the future, including on green technologies and standard-setting. Just because economies will become greener, Europe’s existing grievances with regard to China’s market-distorting practices will not magically disappear. They may even become more pronounced.”
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