Marching for the Climate

September 22, 2019

By Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate & Energy, WWF European Policy Office

Thousands of protesters take to the streets of Brussels on September 20, 2019


In one year, extraordinary changes can happen.


The contrast between the image of schoolgirl Greta Thunberg sitting alone outside the Swedish Parliament a year ago in support of climate action, and this month’s mass climate mobilisations worldwide, is truly impressive.


Climate action has always been widely supported by the public. But now, there is a real sense of urgency when from Brussels to Bangalore, America to Australia, people call on their leaders to listen to the science and act.






September 2019 will see an unprecedented series of political events and public mobilisations focused on the climate crisis.


Marches are taking place around the globe from Brussels to Brisbane to call on leaders for urgent climate action.


On Monday 23rd, governments meet in New York for a UN summit to which they have been asked to bring higher climate pledges.


There is also a meeting of EU energy ministers on Tuesday 24th, at which they will discuss their national energy and climate plans.


On Wednesday 25th, the international climate scientist body, the IPCC, will release a report which is expected to show how global temperature rise is impacting our oceans and polar regions.





But what will the EU’s role be in all this? The EU will be represented by European Council president Donald Tusk and the current Finnish EU Council presidency at the UN summit next week, and several Member States will also be present. While incoming EU Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen has committed to increasing the EU’s climate target from ‘at least 40%’ emissions reductions to 55%, the EU is not expected to make a formal pledge to do so at this point.


However, WWF is calling on progressive Member States to use the opportunity to announce increases to highlight their national ambition on emissions reductions, and their support for greater collective ambition. They have the chance to share those ambitions at the summit and to bring them to life in their national energy and climate plans, which must be finalised by the end of December.






There is a huge amount of work to do. The EU needs to increase its climate targets with the aim of carbon neutrality by 2040. It must phase out coal, oil and gas - and all subsidies for them - rapidly, and in a way that is fair for all regions. It must decarbonise industry, transport, clean up its farming sector.


What’s more, the opportunities for action are huge. From transforming the economy, and creating green jobs, to helping people’s health and protecting our wildlife, oceans, forests and polar regions, cutting greenhouse gas emissions radically and rapidly will bring huge benefits.

The EU has a responsibility to lead. It was the world’s first industrialised region, become wealthy but emitting an awful lot of carbon while doing so. It now needs to show others that a strong economy and a democratic society are fully compatible with getting to net zero emissions.


The next few weeks, with the climate crisis at the top of the news agenda, an international summit aiming to step up governments’ climate action, and an incoming EU Commission president who has made climate a priority, is the perfect opportunity to take bold steps.

Millions of European citizens are demanding it. The EU can and must deliver.







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