Tackling global warming
Temperatures started being recorded in the late 1800s. Data collected over this time shows an increase in the average global temperature that experts in the field largely attribute to global warming caused by carbon emissions.
Around the world, tackling climate change has, in recent years, moved up the list of policy priorities. But what are the consequences of global warming?
Just during this past year we have witnessed some bizarre weather patterns that some attribute to this phenomenon.
However it must be emphasised that occurrences such as the record-high temperatures in the United States or the atypically heavy and prolonged rain in India and the Philippines over the past year could have also been caused by a number of other factors. Most experts fall short of definitive conclusions, claiming that more data is required.
Indeed, human-induced climatic changes must be understood against the background of naturally occurring variations.
What we do know, however, is that greenhouse gas emissions cause global warming and contribute towards air pollution.
According to the European Environmental Agency, air pollution this past year cost each European citizen approximately €200-330, while the costs of carbon dioxide emissions for Europe as a whole amounted to approximately €63 billion. These costs are not unavoidable. By developing cleaner and more efficient energy sources Europe can collectively reduce emissions and adequately prepare for the future.
On September 11, the European Parliament voted on the Energy Efficiency Directive that sets goals for energy efficiency within the EU. This Directive mandates that energy companies must reduce energy sales and that a three per cent renovation rate is imposed on government-owned and operated buildings.
Finally, the Directive instructs each member state to draft a proposal to make the building sector more energy efficient by 2050, since energy consumption for the building sector accounts for approximately 40 per cent of total energy consumption.
Together, these steps form the final pillar of the climate strategy that was originally proposed in March of 2007.
This most recent piece of the proposal is linked to many other initiatives that aim to achieve 20 per cent energy savings by 2020, increasing the use of renewable energy sources resulting in the reduction of carbon emissions.
Although the goals outlined in the Directive are not new, the outlined measures help reinforce previous legislation. In order to monitor each member state’s individual progress, the Energy Efficiency Directive has selected a six-person enforcement team that will help member states reach their goals.
The European Union estimates that this target will require investments worth €40-50 billion a year.
This seems high, but is put into perspective when considering that the EU currently spends €480 billion a year on energy imports.
Investing in the development of a long-term strategy will help decrease costs in the long run.
To facilitate this, the EU has discussed dedicating approximately €20 billion of the 2014-2020 budget to ‘green’ projects. These projects play a key role in the EU’s endeavour to ensure greater energy efficiency.
Although there is still a long way for Europe to go before reaching the goals for 2020, much progress has already been made.
The most recent data for overall greenhouse gas emissions were released at the end of 2010 and showed collectively the 27 member states had reduced emissions by 15 per cent since 1990.
There are still many ways to continue reducing emissions and finding alternative sources of energy, although the progress made since 1990 provides a strong foundation for future changes. These steps, no matter how small, will hopefully move us all closer to the 2020 target and set the stage for future success in reaching our goals.
Climate change is a pressing issue. The EU has long recognised the urgent need for action and has, through its various initiatives, set firm goals for member states. By thoroughly examining the issue and identifying areas in which improvements can be made, the EU continues to move forward and to find concrete solutions that we can work towards together.
The progress in tackling climatic change demonstrates the importance of cooperation in the EU, as this problem is a common thread that every member state must address.
Changes can be made on international, national, regional and personal levels, and the European Union has an exemplary role when it comes to addressing the challenges ahead.
Climate change is widely considered to be a man-made issue and therefore any initiatives launched by the EU will always have to be accompanied by the personal commitment of European citizens in order to achieve the desired changes.
For it is only through concerted action that European citizens can ensure a healthier planet for generations to come.
David Casa is a Nationalist MEP.