Europe calls for climate action
Europe calls for climate action (initially published by the Australian Financial Review on 26/05/2015)
The European Union and its member states, together with 167 other countries, including Australia, are committed to adopt, in December in Paris, a fair, ambitious and legally binding international climate agreement to put the world on track to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.
The world is facing grave threats from climate change, including rising sea levels, more frequent and intense heatwaves, more extreme fire risk days, increased water scarcity, food crises, natural disasters, and displacement of vulnerable people. Facts and figures for Australia in the government’s issues paper released in March show that a "strong and effective global agreement, that addresses carbon leakage and delivers environmental benefit, is in Australia’s interest". The latest data from CSIRO indicates temperatures have increased by 0.9 degrees and sea levels have risen by 20 centimetres over the past century. Projections reveal that average temperatures will keep rising and extreme weather events will become more intense.
Much hard work in the next few months is needed to secure a strong agreement in Paris. The European Union was the first major economy to put forward its contribution. Our commitment is to reduce our emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. This will not be easy. It will only be achieved through a major transformation in all parts of the economy and society.
Nevertheless, the European Union’s first mover experience with climate action shows that it is possible to combine economic growth with greenhouse gas reductions. Since 1990, our economy has grown by 45 per cent and emissions decreased by 19 per cent. This decoupling has occurred in all European Union countries. Employment in the renewables sector has grown by 74 per cent in the EU despite the financial crisis, with almost half a million additional jobs between 2008 and 2013.
Responding to climate change can provide opportunities for all economies. This is the main conclusion of the flagship report released last year by the Global Commission – a major international initiative to analyse costs and benefits of climate action, comprising former heads of government, finance ministers, business leaders and economists. In contrast, the costs of inaction are extraordinary. The scientific Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, established by the UN, tells us that the impacts of climate change are severe, pervasive and irreversible.
As one of the world’s most developed economies and one of the top 20 emitters, Australia has always been part of the global effort on climate change. Its contributions over the years have been appreciated by the international community. Most recently, the world welcomed its $200 million pledge to the Green Climate Fund, which will help developing countries adapt to climate impacts and reduce their emissions. Now we look forward to seeing Australia announce an ambitious emissions reduction contribution.
Only by collective action can we avoid irreversible damage to the planet. Australia and Europe have always been strong promoters of a global-level, multilateral solution to climate change. We have never been closer to reaching this common goal. The agreement to be brokered in Paris aims to be the first universal agreement ever concluded, by which all countries are equally bound.
On the road to Paris, timing and ambition are vital for the success of the negotiations. Countries accounting for over 50 per cent of global emissions and about 60 per cent of global GDP have already made clear what their contributions will be. It is now crucial for all other major economies, including Australia and other G20 countries, to act. Our window of opportunity to avoid severe social, environmental and economic consequences, and to safeguard our planet for the next generations to enjoy, is closing fast. Only a critical mass of ambitious contributions will demonstrate the seriousness of our efforts
Signed by the 26 ambassadors of the European Union and its member states to Australia