Climate emergency: Activists warn of empty words after historic EU vote

28 Nov 2019

Image: © 19b_production/

The EU is now in a state of climate emergency after a majority vote, but activists warn that it should not be an empty declaration.

The European Parliament has approved a resolution to declare a climate emergency in Europe and across the world. The motion, passed today (28 November), saw 429 votes in favour, 225 votes against and 19 abstentions.

The parliament also adopted the resolution on COP25 with 430 votes for, 190 votes against and 34 abstentions. This now means that the EU will commit to achieving a 55pc reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and to be carbon neutral by 2050.

This is an increase of 15pc on the previous target set by the EU under the 2030 climate and energy framework.

“Given the climate and environmental emergency, it is essential to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 55pc in 2030,” said Pascal Canfin, chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

“It also sends a clear and timely message to the commission a few weeks before the publication of the communication on the green deal.”

A first draft of this new green deal is expected to be tabled in December by the new European Commission, led by Ursula von der Leyen. She previously said she wants to see the EU lead the world on climate action.

While welcomed, reaction among climate activists has been cautious, warning the EU that such a declaration must be empty words.

‘Our house is on fire’

Sebastian Mang, Greenpeace EU’s climate policy adviser, said prior to the vote that “our house is on fire”.

“People around the world are suffering and nature is collapsing. But instead of doing everything within their power to put out the blaze, our governments are dithering about,” he said.

“If the EU listens to UN scientists and takes action now to drastically cut emissions by 2030, we could prevent the most severe consequences for our planet.”

Friends of the Earth Europe added:“The time for hollow symbols is over. The EU must act. End support for all fossil fuels and fast-track the switch to 100pc renewable energy and community energy leaving nobody behind. The time is now!”

According to The Guardian, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) was split on the motion, preferring the term ‘climate urgency’ to climate emergency. This was due to the German word for emergency – der notstand – and its associations with laws during the Nazi era.

EPP party spokesperson Peter Liese added that declaring a climate emergency was a “fake debate”.

“There is an urgency to act, but no state of emergency to declare. Emergency can also be interpreted as undermining fundamental rights, like freedom of press and democracy,” he said.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic