Renew Europe

Nov 10, 2021

3 min read

Our planet cannot afford another failed climate conference

By Miguel Chevalier & Santiago de la Presilla

As world leaders arrived in Glasgow for the first United Nations Climate Change conference since the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, some pundits were already calling the conference a failure.

They may be right. Our current commitments fall short.

If we stick to the status quo, an increase in average temperature far beyond 2 degrees might be inevitable. This increase will mean deadly heatwaves, an increase in sea levels that will displace millions of people, droughts, floodings and even hunger.

But our people cannot afford such failures. The clock is ticking. If we want to turn the tide, it has to happen now.

A Renew Europe delegation is present in Glasgow, with several active MEPs to move our climate efforts forward and stand up for policies that ensure a future for the coming generations.

What should Europe do? We took the lead and set very high ambitions for the next decades, cutting carbon emissions by 55% by 2030 and becoming climate neutral in 2050. Is this naive? Maybe. But someone has to take the gauntlet. Someone has to show courage and lead by example.

Many things can be done to tackle climate change, but two measures are within our reach:

Firstly, with its Emissions Trading System (ETS), which has allowed Europeans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the lowest possible economic cost. But it is not enough.

Climate change does not respect borders. The lack of Russian and Chinese presence at the conference is disappointing and unsurprising. Nevertheless, we must keep reaching out to the big emitters. Otherwise, the doomsayers will be proved right.

This is why we need to combine the ETS with a WTO-compatible carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) to avoid carbon leakage. This means taxing products coming into the EU based on the carbon emissions incurred in the production of those goods. This would also incentivise other countries and trading blocs to adopt the same approach, incentivising producers to opt for low carbon methods of production.

Secondly, to reduce global warming within our lifetime, the reduction of methane is essential as it accounts for half of the 1.0 degrees Celsius net rise in global average temperature. Last year, the EU adopted its first strategy to tackle methane emissions since 1996. But we cannot do it alone. This is why we welcome the Global Methane Pledge, led by the EU, US and many international partners. However, China, Russia, India and Iran, all top-10 methane emitters, have refused to sign up.

The COP 26 should lead to real commitments from all countries to raise their climate ambitions. Like the Methane Pledge, the recent pledge to end deforestation by 2030 signed by more than 100 countries is a good start. But that is all it is: a start.

We are in Glasgow because we are standing shoulder to shoulder with all the young people demonstrating for their future. Their fear is also our fear. We must take away their fear by offering them the opportunity to innovate, as innovation has protected mankind from far greater dangers in the past.

Fasten your seatbelts for a healthier and more hopeful planet for our children and grandchildren. This is our chance to rewrite history.