Global warming - an urgent threat
Environmental refugees leaving Bangkok on a flooded highway. Flooding in autumn 2011 killed hundreds, displaced millions and hit the economy, with over 1,000 factories swamped.
The last decade has seen nine of the ten hottest years on world record. A record $380 billion in losses were attributed to "natural disasters" in 2011, according to insurance giant Munich Re. Europe is experiencing fatal and costly heat waves, forest fires and floods. No surprise then that an official poll in late 2011 showed Europeans view it as more important a threat than the financial crisis. Yet carbon emissions in 2010 were at a record level.
Catastrophic climate change can only be avoided if industrialised nations transform rapidly towards a green and resource-efficient economy, with poorer countries following a green growth pathway with financial and technology support set internationally.
Europe remains one of the world’s most carbon polluting regions, second only to China and the United States. Power, heat and transport produce more than 80 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions.
Europe showed climate leadership by signing and ratifying the Kyoto Protocol and setting mandatory targets for renewable energy production. But current efforts will fail to save us from dangerous climate change or maintain EU leadership in green technology development. Other economies are rapidly catching up in a global race for green technology market share and Europe continues to rely on ever more and expensive oil imports.
Three policy areas will determine climate and energy success in the EU:
The current EU climate target of 20 percent emission reductions by 2020 compared to 1990 levels is well short of what scientists say is needed to avert dangerous climate change and is unlikely to drive a transition towards a green and resource-efficient economy. The EU should reduce domestic emissions by at least 30 percent, a move supported by a growing number of business leaders, European ministers and civil society groups. More information.
Power and heat are Europe’s most carbon-heavy sectors, with coal-fired plants the worst offender. Nuclear power remains a safety risk and is increasingly blocking the rapid growth of renewable energy. Within the next decade, nearly half of the EU’s power stations will need to be replaced. Europe should seize the opportunity to invest in renewable power, energy saving technology and upgrade its outdated electricity grid. Europe can and should fully run on renewable energy by 2050. More information.
Oil, transport and biofuels
Transport is Europe’s fastest growing source of carbon emissions. As conventional sources dry up, industry is reaching to ever-riskier and more polluting sources, such as deep seas deposits, tar sands and bio-energy causing rainforest destruction and food price spikes. The EU can and should go beyond oil with a fleet of better, efficient and cheaper-to-run cars, vans and trucks. More information.