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Climate change should be EU Parliament’s first priority, according to citizens

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Combating climate change should be Parliament’s top priority, new Eurobarometer reveals, highlighting youth-led climate protests as great influencers.

“Combating climate change and preserving our environment, oceans and biodiversity” should be the European Parliament’s (EP) biggest priority, EU citizens say in a new Eurobarometer survey commissioned by the EP and conducted in October 2019. Climate change was already one of the leading reasons for voting in the European elections last May, especially for young people. Now, for the first time, citizens are putting climate change at the top of a Eurobarometer priority list.

In total, 32% of Europeans point towards the fight against climate change and preserving the environment as the most important issue for MEPs to address. It is the most mentioned item in 11 member states, especially in Sweden (62%), Denmark (50%) and The Netherlands (46%).

The Eurobarometer survey also asked respondents which environmental concern is the most pressing. An absolute majority of Europeans (52%) believe that it is climate change, followed by air pollution (35%), marine pollution (31%), deforestation and the growing amount of waste (both 28%).

Parliament President David Maria Sassoli, (S&D, IT), who arrives in Madrid on Monday to attend the opening of the UN COP25 climate change conference, said: “This survey shows very clearly that Europeans want action from the EU on combatting climate change. Yesterday in Strasbourg, the European Parliament approved a resolution declaring a climate and environmental emergency in Europe and globally. We are listening to our citizens and stressing the need to move beyond words to action”.

Youth-led protests make a difference

Over the course of the past year, youth-led protests have mobilised millions of people in the EU and globally.

This new Eurobarometer survey shows that close to six out of ten European citizens are confident or convinced that youth-led protests have a direct impact on policy at both national and European level.

The Irish (74%), Swedes (71%) and Cypriots (70%) are most convinced that the protests will lead to political measures being taken at EU level, compared to 42% of Czechs and 47% of UK citizens.

Background

Since 1973, the Eurobarometer has measured European citizens’ perceptions of and expectations of the EU. Kantar collected the data for this Eurobarometer and the fieldwork took place 8-22 October 2019 in all 28 EU member states. A sample of 27,607 representative respondents above the age of 15 were interviewed face-to-face for the report. The data and the full report will be published on 10 December 2019.

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European Green Deal Tops von der Leyden’s ‘To Do’ List

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Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, detailed her ambitious programme to place Europe at the global forefront of the combat against climate change and the promotion of digital innovation, data protection, and what she called “the geopolitics of mutual interest” during her tenure at the helm of the executive branch of the European Union.

Von der Leyen takes office as the multilateral institutions that have helped govern the world over the past 50 years “are being challenged every day”. She said: “It’s not just a question of one country or one party or one president. It is a global phenomenon based on sentiments.” Average people play by the rules but worry about the future of their jobs, businesses and families. “No matter how hard they try, they feel that the world is moving fast.”

One response is increased nationalism and divisiveness. Another is to strive towards greater inclusion. “We need to upgrade our international forums,” she said. “We need leadership.”

Climate change is probably “the best example” of the need for new initiatives, she said. She proposes a European Green Deal, with projected investments of €1 trillion from public and private sources combined and with the backing of the European Investment Bank. The central goal is to make Europe carbon neutral by 2050. “This will create innovation and will create value,” she said. “And it will create jobs.”

Europe cannot reduce its own CO2 emissions just to turn around and “import” them from abroad. To protect local businesses and workers from foreign firms operating under looser environmental regulations, she proposes what she called a “carbon border adjustment mechanism”.

Ultimately, the goal would be for Europe’s trading partners to implement similar carbon-reduction programmes. She pointed to initiates already under way in California and China.

To promote innovation and help scientists find new solutions to the world’s problems, she proposes the expansion of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), where researchers can upload and access vast amounts of data. “It is being developed in Europe for European solutions,” she said. Eventually the EC plans “to open this to the broader public sector and to businesses”.

She added that Europe will continue its efforts in the realm of data privacy and take a similar approach to the use of artificial intelligence.

In terms of geopolitics, von der Leyen stressed the need to “invest in more long-term stability”. She added: “Hard power is an important tool, without question, but never the only one. It always comes with diplomacy and conflict prevention.”

She called this the “geopolitics of mutual interest. That’s what Europe stands for.”

Von der Leyen’s address was followed by another by David Maria Sassoli, President of the European Parliament. His body must approve her green deal and other projects before they can be implemented. He reserved the right of legislators to review and “change” the proposals if they see fit. His primary concern is to link the green deal with social issues. “The environmental challenges we face will only be solved if we address poverty and inequality,” he said.

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EU humanitarian budget for 2020 to help people in over 80 countries

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Today the Commission has adopted its initial annual humanitarian budget for 2020 worth €900 million. The EU is the leading global humanitarian aid donor and helps people in over 80 countries. From protracted conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, to severe food crises, humanitarian crises are intensifying and putting aid delivery to those most in need at risk.

“EU humanitarian aid allows us to save millions of lives worldwide, putting EU global solidarity into action. Yet humanitarian crises are increasing in complexity and severity. Even though conflict remains the main cause of hunger and displacement, its impact has become seriously worsened by climate change. Europe has a responsibility to show solidarity and support for those in need. Our assistance depends on full humanitarian access so aid organisations can do their lifesaving job,” said Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management.

€400 million will go for programmes in Africa, where EU aid will support people affected by long-term conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, those suffering food and nutrition crisis in Sahel, and those displaced by violence in South Sudan, Central African Republic, and Lake Chad basin. In the Middle East, €345 million of EU funding, will address the crisis in Syria and its refugees in neighbouring countries, as well as the extremely critical situation in Yemen.

In Asia and Latin America, EU aid worth €111 million will continue to assist the most vulnerable populations affected by the crisis in Venezuela and refugees in neighbouring countries. The European Union will also continue to provide help in Asian countries such as Afghanistan, which has witnessed war for nearly four decades, and Myanmar and Bangladesh, which both host Rohingya populations.

Since climate change is increasing communities’ vulnerability to humanitarian crises, the funding will help vulnerable populations in disaster prone countries to better prepare for various natural disasters, such as floods, forest fires and cyclones.

Background

EU humanitarian aid is impartial and independent. Aid is provided on a needs-basis and delivered in accordance with humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. The EU’s humanitarian assistance supports millions of people in need globally. EU assistance is delivered only through humanitarian partner organisations, including UN agencies, non-governmental organisations and the Red Cross family, who have signed partnership agreements with the European Commission. The Commission closely tracks the use of EU funds via its global network of humanitarian experts and has firm rules in place to ensure funding is well spent.

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Drought in southern Africa: EU releases over €22 million in humanitarian aid

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The European Commission is mobilising a humanitarian aid package of €22.8 million to help address emergency food needs and support vulnerable people in Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The funding comes as large parts of southern Africa are currently in the grip of their harshest drought in decades.

Many poor households in drought-affected areas in southern African countries are struggling to have enough food due to crop failure, reduced access to water and, in some places, unaffordable food prices in markets. EU humanitarian aid will help deliver food to those most in need and tackle the hunger crisis in fragile rural communities,” said Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management.

In Zimbabwe, €16.8 million from this aid package will boost food and nutrition assistance, as well as improving access to basic health care, clean water and providing protection to vulnerable people. The remaining amount will be channelled to providing food assistance and nutrition support in Eswatini, Madagascar, Lesotho and Zambia.

The Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region, as a whole, is prone to natural disasters and oscillates between droughts and floods that are destroying harvests and further weakening fragile communities. Since January 2019, the EU has allocated a total of €67.95 million for humanitarian assistance across the region. The bulk of this funding went for emergency relief assistance in the wake of natural disasters (cyclones Idai and Kenneth), food assistance, and helping at-risk communities equip themselves better to face climate-related disasters.

Background

As many as 12 million people in the region are at risk of hunger because of extended periods of below-average rainfall, interspersed with floods, on top of the economic challenges that some countries in the region are grappling with. In Zimbabwe alone, a 7.7 million people, half of the country’s population, are at the risk of facing severe hunger, placing Zimbabwe among the states facing one of the worst food crises in the world.

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