Climate change: different approach to a global problem

Employment and Social Affairs

Climate change is a growing threat with a potential impact on our lives and, even more, on the ones of future generations. This is a risk widely spreading all around the world: due to climate change, frequencies of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and heat waves are expected to increase in the future. Some hazards are slow in their onset (such as changes in temperature and precipitation leading to droughts, or agricultural losses), while others happen more suddenly (such as tropical storms and floods). However, this phenomenon affects every country of the world, despite its “contribution” to global pollution. It is estimated that China and India are responsible for one-third of the world’s new plants and trees during the past two decades, according to a recent study based on Nasa satellite data. But on the other hand, also Western countries, recently appears less united toward the goal of fighting climate change.

The Paris Agreement, since 2015, committed almost 200 countries to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and, if possible, below 1,5 degrees. The United States ratified the Agreement, but president Donald Trump announced in June 2017 that Washington would withdraw from it — although it cannot formally leave until November 2020. Other examples of doubts in commitments toward this global goal are also Russia and Turkey, which have signed the Agreement but have yet to ratify it, or Australia, which abandoned legislation to comply with the Paris Agreement. The so-called “Trump Effect” is slowing down global climate action, and is working against the ambition of the Paris Agreement, according to a new report. The US president’s policies are “acting against the momentum which the Paris Agreement on climate change hoped to generate,” argues a report from the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) — an Irish think tank. But the report also notes that “Paris agreement is not in crisis,” and points out that the EU and China, among others, are on track to meet their 2020 goals.

On the other hand, the EU is by far the most committed to this goal and recently announced a draft plan to be carbon neutral by 2050. The EU Commission, on 25th of February, has welcomed the political agreement reached by the European Parliament and Member States today on a new generation of low-carbon benchmarks needed to help boost investment in sustainable projects and assets. The European Parliament and Council still have to formally approve the rules.This agreement creates two new categories of low-carbon benchmarks: a climate-transition benchmark and a specialised benchmark which brings investment portfolios in line with the Paris Agreement goal to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. “I welcome the agreement reached which demonstrates that our Sustainable Finance agenda and goals to build a stronger Capital Market Union can work hand in hand”,said Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness. “The EU is sticking to its ambitions to make Europe a more attractive place for investors by setting high disclosure standards and paving the way for long-term sustainable investment policies”, added Katainen.

Furthermore, French president Emmanuel Macron has strongly relaunched the idea of an EU bank for climate investments, ahead of the European election in next May. “Reconnecting with the thread of progress also means taking the lead in the ecological fight. Will we be able to look our children in the eye if we do not also reduce our climate debt?”, Macron wrote in an op-ed on the renewal of Europe. “The European Union must set its ambition and adapt its policies accordingly with such measures as a European Climate Bank to finance the ecological transition”, added Macron. The French president wants the EU to aim for zero carbon emissions by 2050. He also proposes a European climate bank to finance the transition. Macron’s other proposals include “penalizing businesses” that compromise on environmental standards. Thus, we can say that Macron’s push for carbon neutrality is in line with the European Commission’s long-term climate vision.

On the other hand, the United States, after former President Barack Obama said in 2015 that “climate change is the greatest threat to future generations”, radically changed position on the sensitive issue.  The federal government is doing a worse job managing the problem of climate change under President Donald Trump, according to an investigation from the Government Accountability Office. The report would not come as a surprise to President Trump, who has repeatedly dismissed concerns about climate change. In November, he dismissed a study produced by his own administration involving 13 federal agencies and more than 300 leading climate scientists, warning of the potentially catastrophic impact of climate change. “I don’t believe it,” Trump said at the time, adding that he had read “some” of the report. Trump created a White House committee on climate change but put a climate change sceptic in charge.

On the other hand, the member of Democratic party Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested that some young Americans are concerned about having children because of the threat that climate change could pose to future generations. “Our planet is going to hit disaster if we don’t turn this ship around … there’s scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Instagram Live. “And even if you don’t have kids, there are still children here in the world, and we have a moral obligation to leave a better world for them”.

An Insider poll conducted on SurveyMonkey Audience found that nearly 30% of Americans either strongly agree, agree, or somewhat agree that a couple should consider the negative and potentially life-threatening effects of climate change when deciding whether or not to have children. About 18% of Americans strongly disagreed that the future impacts of climate change should be considered by would-be parents. But one element emerges clearly by most of the survey in the US and in other areas: younger people are much more likely to consider the threats of climate change.

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