Monday, May 23

Save the planet and save us with it

The planet is heating up. The warming and alteration of the climatic system is caused by the action of humanity. Climate change, in fact, has already altered natural and human systems. All these statements are facts proven by science, where the International Panel on Climate Change (GIEC), also known by its acronym in English, IPCC, stands out. Created in 1988 within the United Nations, the GIEC assesses the effects and impacts of climate change based on available scientific data.

At the end of February, Working Group II – dedicated to impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, published its contribution to the IPCC report, the final version of which will be made public by the end of 2022. Its conclusion is that the scientific evidence is unequivocal. : Climate change is a threat to human well-being and to the health of the planet. A fact that is added to those mentioned above and that ratifies, in turn, others such as climate changes have caused “impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and in the oceans.”

The barrage of devastating scientific conclusions continues to grow. Experts have analyzed whether extreme weather and climate events are attributable to climate change. And the answer to this question has raised the level of alarm in this report: the forest fires that devastated more than 24 million hectares in Australia a couple of years ago; the great drought in Somalia in 2017, the worst in the last 60 years; or the heat wave in western North America in 2021, which left temperatures in Canada as high as 49.6ºC; they are phenomena that have occurred due to the new climate. Moreover, experts indicate that the probability that they would have occurred would have been lower if it had not been for climate change, or even would not have taken place at all.

The report also points out that climate change has caused substantial damage and irreversible loss to terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and high seas ecosystems. In addition, more than 3 million people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change, which is exacerbated by inequalities between and within different regions. Experts warn that, in the medium and long term, climate change will cause numerous risks for natural and human systems. However, its magnitude and rhythm will depend on the mitigation and adaptation actions that are implemented in the short term. Even so, they warn that the impacts are increasingly complex and difficult to manage, due to the fact that these extreme phenomena interact with each other and cascade through different sectors and regions.

The good news is that all is not lost yet. The bad news is that we are running out of time. The report leaves no room for doubt: we need to overcome financial and governance constraints and tackle the problem that climate change poses to our natural and human systems. The actions we take now will be key to preventing further biodiversity loss, worsening food and nutrition security, and increased risks to key infrastructure. In addition, they will avoid premature deaths caused by climate change, which according to the UN is already responsible for one in four.

The European Union, with the European Green Deal as its banner, leads the work at a global level to prevent the climate situation of our planet from getting even worse. For this reason, last year the European Parliament supported my proposal within the EU Biodiversity Strategy by 2030 to demand that the EU have a European Biodiversity Law. The goal, of course, is to ensure that by 2050 ecosystems have recovered, are resilient and are adequately protected. This point is especially relevant if we take into account that the IPCC report indicates that less than 15% of the land, 21% of fresh water, and 8% of the oceans are protected areas.

Furthermore, with the European Climate Law, the EU has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. This will be the first milestone in the goal set for 2050 that happens to become the first climate-neutral continent. In addition to these measures, the EU has also taken care to approve its Climate Change Adaptation Strategy in 2021, since it is imperative to prepare for the inevitable effects that Europe is facing and will face in the coming years. Finally, I would like to recall the EU’s external action. Europe also leads the support to third countries through different programs and actions, among which its commitment to contribute 100 million euros stands out – the largest contribution – to the United Nations Adaptation Fund for developing countries vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

Time is short and the cost of not taking action will be paid by all of us. We need more ambition in our policies, including the fight against climate change across all sectors. The collaboration and joint action of governments, the private sector and civil society is necessary, and to advocate for international cooperation to face the challenges we face.

The ecological transition cannot wait any longer. And the IPCC report is further evidence that if we don’t act now, it will soon be too late.