Last week – on the day that marked the five year anniversary of the Paris Agreement – a number of world leaders came together to celebrate and recognise the resolve of so many in working towards a safer, more resilient world with net-zero emissions. A world we can be proud to leave to our grandchildren.
During the past five years the determination of the internationally community has certainly been tested and our global community has been hit by a virus which has had long-lasting seismic impacts on our society and economies.
In the midst of the pandemic, is it realistic to call for stronger global action to fight climate change? We say the case is now more pertinent than ever. Looking at the droughts and devastating swarms of locusts in Africa, massive fires in Australia, floods in Pakistan, infrastructure collapsing in Siberia as permafrost melts, intense hurricanes in America and typhoons in Asia, a more pertinent question might be: Can we afford to let things worsen?
Even before the pandemic, the European Union committed to leading a green transition. Back in December 2019, the European Commission launched the European Green Deal – a new growth model and roadmap to achieve climate neutrality in the EU by 2050. Now, a year later, we are aligning our policies in areas ranging from energy to industry, farming, food, or biodiversity with our sustainability goals.
This is now the EU’s action plan for recovery from the pandemic. Our– “Next Generation EU” recovery package and our next long-term budget earmarks more than half a trillion euros to address climate change.
The science is irrefutable – for future prosperity, we must move beyond the harmful carbon economy and invest in greening the global economy. We cannot afford not to.
To reach climate neutrality by 2050, on 11 December EU leaders unanimously agreed on our 2030 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% compared to 1990 levels. It will provide predictability for our businesses, industry and citizen. It will further accelerate the fast decrease in the costs of low carbon technologies – for example, the cost of solar photovoltaics declined by 82% between 2010 and 2019. Achieving the 55% target will even help us to save € 100 billion in the next decade and up to € 3 trillion by 2050.
We know our good intentions for a green recovery in Europe won’t suffice if we fail to convince others to join us. Not only must we in Europe press ahead with our own ambitious plans for a green transition, but bring international partners on board too. Already Egypt is running with its 2035 Integrated Sustainable Energy Strategy, supported by the EU, which emphasises the importance of renewable energy. Egypt intends to increase the supply of electricity generated from renewable sources to 42% by 2035.
No government can tackle climate change alone. This is why we will pursue all avenues of cooperation and diplomacy through instruments such as strategic partnership agreements, trade policy, development assistance and other external financing tools. We need a virtuous circle for ambition.
In Egypt, over 50% of EU grant assistance in ongoing projects is climate-relevant, and part of this has also helped leverage additional concessional loans from the European Investment Bank and other development banks. Our cooperation with Egypt in the climate-relevant field focuses on the sustainable energy, water & water sanitation and waste management projects.
Already, the ranks of the “net-zero club” are growing. Japan has joined the EU and has adopted the 2050 climate neutrality goal, and others aim to achieve net-zero emissions around mid-century (South Africa, South Korea and China), with important details to be further clarified. Canada announced a new law on climate neutrality and President-elect Biden has indicated that the US will move in the same direction.
There is finally a sense of a global momentum emerging towards keeping the promise of the Paris Agreement and securing our future on this planet. Net zero emission is becoming the new normal mid-century outlook for countries with very different historical and geographical circumstances.
Together with the delivery of the $100 billion of climate financing to developing countries, these must be the deliverables for the climate negotiations when they resume at COP26 in Glasgow next November.
We can avoid the most dramatic impacts of climate change on our societies. Our global, regional, national, local and individual recovery plans are an opportunity to ‘build back better’. We owe it to next generation: major victims of social and economic consequences of the pandemic, they will have to bear the burden of climate change and pay off the debt of the recovery.
These last years, the EU continued to lead the fight against climate change, but five years after the signing of the Paris Agreement, it is more important than ever that we all come forward with clear strategies for net-zero emissions and enhance our level of ambition for 2030.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made us aware that good public policies alone are not enough. We will also need to foster small individual actions to attain a big collective impact. This is the snowball effect we need starting from the Paris Agreement. With climate neutrality as the direction of travel, the world can mobilise its best engineers, businesspeople, policymakers, artists, academics, NGOs and citizens to protect together something we all share beyond borders and species: our planet.