POLICY PAPER: The European Parliament and climate change: past, present and future

Kateřina Davidová, in her latest policy paper, examines climate policy in the European Parliament. Looking ahead and drawing conclusions form past climate policies, what are the future perspectives?

  • The European Parliament has thus far played an important role in steering the European Union in the direction of bolder climate action. Compared to the other governing bodies, especially the European Commission and the European Council, it has often been the most progressive force pushing for higher climate ambitions.
  • At the same time, climate change is now advancing at an unprecedented speed. The overall concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has reached its historic maximum and the emissions produced by human activity keep rising every year at an ever-increasing speed.It is necessary to step up global climate action to avoid tipping points after which climate change becomes irreversible and which would cause a temperature rise far beyond the 1,5°C that is considered by scientists to be the safety threshold.
  • Therefore, the elections in May 2019 were of crucial importance not only for Europe, but also for the whole world, as Europe needs to act as strong global leader in this regard if other countries are to follow. 

Other climate-related legislation that the Parliament voted upon in the past five years included setting stricter emissions standards for vehicles, reducing the impact and banning some types of single-use plastic products and limiting the use of palm oil in biofuels, which has proven harmful to climate as its overuse causes serious deforestation. 

Central and eastern Europeans did not consider climate to be the highest priority topic (for example, only 69% of Czechs view it as their top concern), even though they place a lot of importance on related topics such as air quality, sustainability of agriculture and general protection of nature and wildlife. This is true also for the average European – environmental protection is seen as an important topic for 82% of all Europeans taking part in the survey. 

The EU will be discussing two major climate targets – for 2030 and 2050. As the consensus on the 2030 target has been reached quite recently by all the member states, there is a reluctance to re-open this folder once again. However, the current emissions reduction target of 40% is not in line with the Paris Agreement and not sufficient to ward off the increase of temperature beyond 1,5°C. As a result, there have been calls, including by the European Parliament, to increase this EU-wide target in order to meet the Paris pledges. 

Download the publication through the PDF on the right of this article.

#Prague Climate Talks #climate policy #European Parliament #2019 elections #climate change

Kateřina Davidová
Senior Research Fellow

Expertise: EU climate and energy policy, environmental protection

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