EK blog: Fighting climate change – how can the EU be a true forerunner?

Encouraging other world economies to join ambitious climate efforts is the most influential way the EU can contribute to climate change mitigation. On the home front it is vital to provide an environment where business can flourish and climate friendly growth and jobs be generated, writes Tellervo Kylä-Harakka-Ruonala, member at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).

Tellervo Kylä-Harakka-Ruonala, member of the EESC, has been involved with global climate processes since the historic meetings in New York and Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and in Kyoto 1997.
Tellervo Kylä-Harakka-Ruonala, member of the EESC, has been involved with global climate processes since the historic meetings in New York and Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and in Kyoto 1997.

Ahead of the historic Paris conference almost two hundred countries gave their pledges to mitigate climate change. Thanks to the skillful climate diplomacy, the EU was able to form and extend the group of “high level ambition” countries.

This positive development highlighted the fact that global influencing is the most important mission of the EU in the fight against climate change. In other words, it is necessary to get all the biggest emitters to commit to at least as ambitious targets as the EU has already done.

There are three essential reasons for this:

  • It is only through global measures that one can truly fight the climate change. The EU cannot do this alone – not even in the case of all our emissions being abolished. The EU emissions are assessed to be no more than about 5 percent of the global emissions in 2030.
  • Creating a level playing field for business – and thereby preventing carbon leakage – requires that companies face compatible climate obligations all over the world.
  • Global commitment to climate change mitigation creates worldwide markets for companies offering energy and climate solutions. Here European companies have a chance to take their share of the cake.

Companies and citizens make the change

Focusing efforts on global influencing is of key. But also on the home front, the EU should be a forerunner. However, we have to elaborate on the true meaning of the climate forerunner.

Here it is necessary to make difference between the roles of the political decision makers on the one hand and the companies and citizens on the other hand. Obviously, the EU is already clearly ahead of other economies and regions in terms of politically set emissions targets. However, percentages as such do not decrease any gram of carbon dioxide emissions. Instead, it is the actual measures that matter.

In order to boost forerunning in real actions, it is most essential that European companies and citizens have an operating environment where they can make use of the future prospects and opportunities.

Consequently, since growth and jobs are generated by companies, the EU should be a forerunner in providing companies with the best innovation framework, the most encouraging investment environment, and the most favorable trading conditions. It is indeed the innovations, investments and trade through which the companies fulfill their central role in climate change mitigation.

The role of citizens is important in combating climate change, as well. This role can be best strengthened by empowering and enabling citizens to make their personal choices as enlightened consumers, residents, workers and societal actors.

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