EU calls on China, US to 'step up' on global climate fight
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen used her annual state of the union address to call on China and other nations to join the EU in its ambitious plans to combat climate change and to meet Paris Agreement targets.
The European Union has pledged to deepen its emissions reductions by at least 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels, a goal that has already become legally binding. And while nations globally committed in 2015 to revise their pollution-cutting goals by 2020, almost a third, including China, haven’t done it yet.
Speaking to lawmakers in Strasbourg, France, on Wednesday, von der Leyen promised an additional €4 billion ($4.7 billion) to support developing countries make the green transition and urged others to do their part. A decade ago, rich nations said they would mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poorer countries deal with the impacts of climate change, but that target hasn’t been met and is set to become a sticking point at a United Nations conference in Glasgow in November.
“We delivered on our commitments - team Europe contributes $25 billion a year - but others still leave a gaping hole toward reaching the global target,” she said.
“Europe is ready to do more,” she said. “But we expect the U.S. and our partners to step up too.”
The planet’s warming must be limited within 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, scientists have warned. The current path is 3 degrees warmer by the end of the century.
Von der Leyen also used the speech to touch on other issues central to the bloc, such as defence and trade.
The commission president touted the bloc’s response to Covid-19 while underscoring the urgent need to boost global vaccination rates.
Von der Leyen promoted the fact that the European Union has fully vaccinated more than 70% of its adult population and is now among the world’s leaders in its pandemic response.
The EU’s response is all the more remarkable given the slow initial rollout of its vaccine campaign, which lagged major countries like the U.S. and the U.K. and was marred by embarrassing missteps, such as infighting over which vaccines to support. Von der Leyen also highlighted the lack of vaccines for the global community and pledged to donate 200 million additional doses to the rest of the world, boosting the EU’s total donations to 450 million doses.
“We delivered to Europe, we delivered to the rest of the world, we did it the right way, we did it the European way, and I think it worked,” von der Leyen said. “The next year will be another test of character - I know Europe will pass the test.”
Von der Leyen addressed broader economic challenges, saying the EU needs to make a substantial investment to boost its production of semiconductors to address critical gaps in the manufacturing supply chain.
She said the European Commission would present a new European chips act in the coming weeks aimed at linking together world-class research, design, testing and production capabilities.
Calling it “a matter of tech sovereignty,” she said that EU nations need to “jointly create a state-of-art chip ecosystem.”
Von der Leyen said the EU must “be a world leader again. This should be our aim.”
Von der Leyen touched upon the need for the EU to increase its autonomy and create a European Defence Union, levelling criticism at member states for failing to move faster on the issue.
She said that under France’s rotating presidency of the EU early next year, she and President Emmanuel Macron will call a summit on European defence.
The commission chief said a new EU-North Atlantic Treaty Organization general declaration would be presented by the end of the year, with governments needing to reflect more on “the deeply troubling questions” raised by the US-led evacuation from Afghanistan.
“Europe can and clearly should be able and willing to do more on its own,” von der Leyen said, calling for a new European Defence Union. She said she believes that EU battlegroups or rapid entry forces for crises in foreign areas “will be part of the solution.” She added: “What has held us back until now is not just a shortfall of capacity - it is the lack of political will.”
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