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'Not Enough to Declare Climate Emergency': Ahead of EU Vote, Demand for Action Not Just Words

"When your house is on fire, can you really afford the time to come up with declarations, or do you grab a bucket and do whatever you can to stop everything from burning?"

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"If the E.U. listens to U.N. scientists and takes action now to drastically cut emissions by 2030," says one Greenpeace campaigner, "we could prevent the most severe consequences for our planet." (Photo: @ExtinctionR/Twitter)

Ahead of an expected vote Thursday by European Union lawmakers to declare "an environment and climate emergency in Europe and globally," green groups are emphasizing that the symbolic declaration must accompany ambitious action.

"Our house is on fire. People around the world are suffering and nature is collapsing," Sebastian Mang, Greenpeace E.U. climate policy adviser, said in a statement Wednesday. "But instead of doing everything within their power to put out the blaze, our governments are dithering about."

"If the E.U. listens to U.N. scientists and takes action now to drastically cut emissions by 2030," Mang added, "we could prevent the most severe consequences for our planet."

Reuters reported Monday that a majority of members of the European Parliament hoped to declare a climate emergency to "increase pressure on the incoming E.U. executive, expected to start work on Dec. 1, to take a stronger leading role in the global fight against climate change."

"If the E.U. Parliament's declaration creates the spark which finally pushes the European Union's decision makers to adopt these measures, then we'll know that their declaration of a 'climate emergency' isn't just more hot air."
—Nick Bryer, 350.org

That executive—German politician Ursula von der Leyen, incoming president of the European Commission—has promised to deliver a "European Green Deal" in her first 100 days.

The Guardian reported Tuesday that "the European Parliament is split over whether to declare a global climate emergency before next week's crucial U.N. summit." COP 25 is scheduled to start Monday in Madrid, after a youth-led climate strike planned for Friday. A second strike is set for the following Friday.

French MEP Pascal Canfin, who chairs the European Parliament's environment committee and co-authored the draft resolution to declare a climate emergency, told The Guardian that "it is a message to European citizens, to young people, to say that Europe is the very first continent to declare a climate emergency and to act accordingly."

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In response to the recent reports, 350.org campaigner Nick Bryer wrote Wednesday, "When your house is on fire, can you really afford the time to come up with declarations, or do you grab a bucket and do whatever you can to stop everything from burning?"

"The current E.U. target is to reduce emissions by 40% by 2030. Both science and a sense of justice tell us that isn't [anywhere] near good enough," he continued. "The world needs to hit stop burning all fossil fuels by 2050 at the latest, if we're still to have any chance of averting the worst impact of the climate crisis, and ensure a safe future for the generation of school strikers."

Bryer outlined three ways in which E.U. lawmakers could "go beyond declarations and take meaningful action" to address the climate crisis:

  • End the use of fossil fuels. Stop permitting any new fossil fuels projects, and rapidly phase out existing coal, oil, and gas infrastructure.
  • Stop financing and subsidizing the fossil fuel industry, now. End fossil finance.
  • Invest in a just, equitable, 100% renewable Green New Deal for Europe.

"If the E.U. Parliament's declaration creates the spark which finally pushes the European Union's decision makers to adopt these measures," he concluded, "then we'll know that their declaration of a 'climate emergency' isn't just more hot air."

Some MEPs agree with the climate campaigners. Mohammed Chahim of the Netherlands is the leading lawmaker on the resolution for the Socialists and Democrats, the European Parliament's second largest group.

"For me, it is not enough to declare a climate emergency," Chahim told Reuters. Like the campaigners, he compared the crisis to a house on fire and emphasized the importance of pursuing policy measures to address it.

"This resolution to the COP 25 is the water to put out the fire," he said. "It is a message to the world: we do not only want to be leaders, we are [also] taking the right measures."

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