EU Environmental Targets Come Under Fire From Activists

EU Environmental Targets Come Under Fire From Activists

More than 60 non-government organisations condemned yesterday the draft Energy Lending Policy published by the European Investment Bank (EIB), calling on European financial institutions and stakeholders to instead align with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. 

At the 2015 Paris climate conference, 195 countries adopted the first, universal, legally-binding global climate deal in a bid to cap rising global temperatures below 2°C, and pursue initiatives to limit the rise to 1.5°C.

“The proposed changes run counter to the spirit of the EIB’s draft proposal and to the EU’s proposed overall goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050,” reads the letter sent to EIB president, Werner Hoyer, “we are concerned that… predominantly fossil gas projects may still be eligible to receive financing.”

The comments refer to rising global sentiment that governments and institutions undertake a large-scale divestment in fossil fuel projects. In July, the EIB vowed to close its multibillion euro fossil fuel portfolio by the end of 2020 in order to align with climate targets. 

Nonetheless, sustaining political momentum remains a challenge. Last week, EU environment ministers agreed to “update” the bloc’s current emission reduction pledge in 2020, but failed to specify by how much. 

Ten countries- Romania, Poland, Malta, Lithuania, Hungary, Greece, Croatia, Estonia, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic- blocked efforts to commit outright to an increase at the time of the council meeting. 

Instead, ministers agreed to a text committing the environmental council to this year complete its work on a still-pending climate neutrality goal for 2050. Final conclusions on the 2030 target, however, were watered down. 

According to the first draft of the text, the EU was set to increase its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of 40% in “in a manner that represents a progression of ambition beyond the current one and that reflects the EU’s highest possible ambition”. This part was cut from the final version, which now reads “in 2020, the EU will update its NDC as agreed in Paris”.

Climate neutrality currently enjoys the support of the EU Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen, who has hailed emission cut increases and called for Europe “to become the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050.”

Other European leaders, however, are not convinced. 

“Why should we decide 31 years ahead of time what will happen in 2050?” Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš declared earlier this year. 

Meanwhile, UK-founded activist group Extinction Rebellion took matters into their own hands yesterday, with protesters erecting a tent camp on one of Amsterdam’s main roads, occupying a Parisian shopping centre and barricading themselves to vehicles in London’s Westminster. 

“We’re sorry. We don’t want to disrupt you, your families and your loved ones but the inaction of our governments on the climate and ecological emergency is a death sentence,” the group said in a tweet, “We are terrified, we are angry and we have to #ActNow.”

Over the next few weeks, Extinction Rebellion activists are expected to hold demonstrations in more than 60 cities globally, including London, New York, Buenos Aires, Sydney, Cape Town, Brussels and Mumbai.

Joanna Eva is a London-based analyst and contributor with a range of clients in the risk consulting industry. She specializes in Asian political and economic analysis, having lived and travelled extensively in the region for close to a decade. She holds a Master of Law from the University of New South Wales and received her Bachelor of International Studies from the University of Sydney. She is proficient in English and Mandarin Chinese.

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