- Extreme weather in Europe and its impact on lives, livelihoods and biodiversity will continue and worsen unless EU policy makers accelerate climate action
- EU legislators have the responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in Europe and across the world from climate disasters
- This year’s run up to winter in the current energy crisis is critical for the EU to spearhead global climate action
Brussels,19 July 2022 – As wildfires and extreme heat ravage Europe we’re calling on EU policymakers to shoulder their responsibility and stop fanning the flames and improve legislation to prevent catastrophic weather from worsening.
This week we have seen some of the continent’s most extreme climate disasters with wildfires leaving apocalyptic images in France, Portugal and Spain, droughts in Italy and the UK reaching 40℃ for the first time causing the loss of life, livelihoods and biodiversity. Europe’s hottest ever week comes just one year on from the devastating floods in Austria, Belgium and Germany and dreadful forest fires in Greece and Turkey.
The weather extremes are hitting Europe along with an energy crisis that poses a real threat to many people – all eyes on the next winter season, in the middle of the biggest overhaul of climate and energy policy and the bloc’s attempt to rid itself of fossil fuel dependency. However, progress in the so-called ‘Fit For 55’ package is far from sufficient to limit global temperature increase to 1.5℃. The EU must urgently step up action to achieve at least 65% emission cuts by 2030 and spearhead increased climate action at the upcoming United Nations climate discussions in Egypt in November.
“This extreme weather comes as no surprise, science has been warning us for years. The heatwave should be storming a bold climate policy wave. Unfortunately we’re not seeing the translation from words to actions, we’re not seeing policies that can really address and speed up the climate action that is needed now. Things are not going to get better but this is the decade that we must make the shift to limit global warming. It’s now up to policy makers to take their responsibilities seriously and step up to the plate.” Chiara Martinelli, Director, Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe
There is no time to postpone urgent action. Policy makers should legislate now for people to start benefiting from the effects of climate action in the coming years, with measures such as keeping fossil fuels in the ground, reducing emissions, saving energy and moving to a 100% renewable energy system. We also need a plan that reduces structural vulnerabilities to climate change, through carefully designed legal, policy, and process interventions from the local to global level that address the inequalities and exposure to climate change impacts. Failing to act now would result in catastrophic impacts across the EU and beyond, fueling an exacerbation of even more intense climate-related disasters such as floods, forest fires and droughts.
“In Spain, like in many Mediterranean countries, we are suffering incredibly hot temperatures of more than 40ªC during the day and no less than 25ª during the night, that are not only putting the life of people in danger (already estimated at 510 deaths in the first 6 days) but alto destroying preserved woods and threatening local economy based on seasonal tourism. It is an urgent call to accelerate the decarbonisation of our society to avoid adding fuel to the fire and to implement emergency adaptation plans that will reduce health, environmental and economic impacts of climate change in vulnerable communities and territories.” Jérémie Fosse, co-founder and director of eco-union, member of CAN Europe.
The climate emergency that we are experiencing comes on top of health, wars and financial crises. Like in every crisis, climate change affects people unequally based on different factors (gender, socio economic, geography, disabilities, race/ethnicity etc.) within Europe and beyond, and not just during the European summer season.
What does science tell us?
Unfortunately, these weather disasters are here to stay and they will get worse if we don’t step up action. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report makes it clear that Europe will continue to experience these kinds of extreme weather events as climate change increases the likelihood, frequency and intensity of certain weather events.
- According to the European Environment Agency climate-related natural disasters have already affected nearly 50 million people in the European Union between 1980 and 2020, and according to the European Commission, the total economic loss amounted to at least €419 billion – or €12 billion per year over the same period.
- A recent Joint Research Centre report found that without climate mitigation and adaptation the death-toll from extreme heat in the EU could be more than 30 times more than at present by the end of the century.
- Climate scientists also state that it is still possible to avoid the situation getting even worse by acting now and limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5℃, and that every fraction of a degree matters.
Notes to Editors:
CAN Europe is a network of members based across the continent – if you’d like a comment or interview from a particular country please get in touch with us.
Latest IPCC report: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
Joint Research Centre PESETA research on impacts of extreme weather: Human mortality from extreme hot and cold
CAN Europe report: How to maximise the social benefits of climate action
Media briefing: Amazon fires and the role of EU consumption
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