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EU urged to step up climate action after UN report

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EU urged to step up climate action after UN report

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(BRUSSELS) - Environmental groups urged the EU to take urgent action over climate change Monday, following the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C.

The IPCC report, approved by 195 governments, warns how critical it is to limit global warming to 1.5°C, underscoring the urgency with which governments need to make rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.

The world must halve carbon emissions by 2030, warns the IPCC, before falling to net zero by mid-century at the latest, to limit global warming to 1.5°C and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. At current rates, average global temperatures are expected to exceed 1.5°C somewhere between 2030 and 2052.

To meet the 1.5°C target, coal consumption would need to be cut by at least two thirds by 2030 and fall to almost zero in electricity production by 2050. Renewables would need to supply 70-85% of electricity in 2050, although trends show even higher potential. The report finds that the substantial improvement in solar, wind and electricity storage technologies could be a sign that a system transition has already started.

Oil and gas use will need to decline rapidly too. A pathway that does not rely on unproven CO2 removal technologies would see oil use declining by 37% below 2010 levels by 2030.

Natural climate solutions, such as forest protection and reforestation, have the potential to provide over a third of the cost-effective CO2 mitigation needed by 2030 for a 2°C target, implying high potential for a 1.5°C target.

The European Commission, which welcomed the report, is due to release a draft long-term climate strategy for 2050 on 28 November.

The European Union has pledged to cut its carbon emissions by at least 40% by 2030. European environment ministers are set to meet in Luxembourg on 9 October to agree the EU's negotiating mandate for the UN climate conference that will take place in Katowice, Poland, in December 2018.  EU governments are expected to agree on the EU's final long-term strategy in 2019.

Urgent action from Europe is now needed, says Greenpeace. In a year when millions of Europeans have suffered tragic forest fires, deadly heatwaves and devastating drought, the report is the "scientific equivalent of a kick in the ass", according to Greenpeace's EU climate and energy policy director Tara Connolly, "which clearly exposes the inadequacy of Europe's action on climate change".

"The good news is that Europe can play a major role in turning the tide on climate change. People are already taking action: from mass protests against the expansion of coal mines in Germany, to communities fighting energy poverty with solar energy in Greece. Our governments and the EU need to catch up fast: the first steps must be to radically increase 2030 climate targets and commit to a carbon-neutral Europe by 2040."

The IPCC report shows that climate impacts will affect people's health, livelihoods, human security and economic growth. According to the WWF, 2017 was already "one of the costliest years on record for global insured losses resulting from natural and man-made disasters. In Europe alone, heatwaves could increase by a factor of five by the end of this century, with droughts likely to be become increasingly frequent in the Mediterranean area, western Europe, and Northern Scandinavia."

The WWF warns: "current emissions, which put us on a 3°C plus global warming trend, will lead us to breach tipping points that will cause irreversible changes. Delaying action will only lead to deeper, costlier, and most importantly unproven 'solutions' in the future--whereas we have policy solutions available today that will prevent those catastrophic climate impacts."

Ambitious action is needed, says the WWF. "The EU's pledge to reduce emissions by at least 40% by 2030 is far from sufficient to meet IPCC's scientific recommendations of a 1.5°C global warming limit. To achieve this 1.5°C pathway, the EU needs to aim for net-zero emissions by 2040. This will require ambitious action in every sector, but it is feasible and will bring huge benefits – to health, jobs and energy independence," said Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate & Energy, WWF European Policy Office.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Link to the report

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