However we look at it, we cannot fool ourselves into thinking that the political fight for enhancing climate action has advanced a lot in Europe over the past year. We need to therefore seek out the potential for positive change that still exists in Europe.
The three EU decision making institutions (i.e., European Commission, Council and Parliament) seem to be in agreement that moving beyond the current 20% 2020 reduction target will not happen any time soon. A modest reference to deeper European reductions was solidly blocked by Poland at the June Environmental Council. Two weeks later the European Parliament’s conservative majority, enticed by Europe’s big industrial polluters, muted the Parliament in expressing such an opinion on enhanced climate action. The European Commission remains deeply divided on the same issue. Last but not least, the current Polish EU presidency gives us little hope of seeing a major change in Europe’s willingness to move towards more climate action in the next six months.
Indeed, these realities are planting seeds of doubt in the minds of progressive policy makers, stakeholders and the NGO community at large: should we stop working on climate targets? Must we give up on the European project, which led the way for more climate action, and instead invest more in actions at national and regional levels? Do we refocus on the supporting policies that bring about more energy efficiency and, if implemented correctly, fewer greenhouse gas emissions? Or is it just a case of focussing more on greenhouse gas targets, including being more explicit about the CAN-E 40% 2020 reduction ask?
These are all valid questions, which will underscore the strength of CAN-Europe and the NGO community if we face them head-on.As we speak, the CAN-Europe team is preparing a mid-year re-assessment of the goals, strategy and communication tactics needed to tackle these issues. Our intent is to present the results of this work as input for a debate at our next General Assembly. We look forward to a stimulating debate and a great strategic review to guide CAN-Europe in its 2012 work plan.
Whatever comes out of this important review, one thing will never change: the hope and fierce determination that as a network, we can change politics in Europe and implement policies that will avoid dangerous climate change. Let there be no doubt that our efforts have made and will make a difference. For example, in the past 12 months the strong efforts of the climate community led to:
- millions of workers under the umbrellas of their trade unions supporting more ambitious climate targets;
- over 100 major companies doing the same;
- the exposure of dirty lobby work in Europe (and beyond) by big European polluters;
- a broad distribution and greater understanding of the wide-ranging, important benefits of enhanced climate action;
- the isolation of one of the major blocking countries in the European Environment Council;
- numerous youth groups actively joining the fight for more climate action; and
- tens of thousands of European constituents sending their concerns to their MEPs, almost succeeding in breaking the conservative majority there.
Whatever comes next, all of the above large and small successes show that there is potential for change in Europe we are only starting to touch upon. We must widen the range and size of stakeholders to support us in the fight for more climate action. If we succeed in strengthening and building the CAN-E network in the same way, anything is possible. Right now we are only in the eye of the storm; next we will make the wind blow in the right direction.
Have a great summer break everyone.