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MEPs declare a climate emergency as EU ramps up for ‘European Green Deal’

EU lawmakers have declared a symbolic ‘climate emergency’ in a bid to force the European Commission (EC) to take greater action on measures designed to prevent climate change.

The European Parliament passed the declaration with 429 lawmakers voting for, 225 against and 19 abstaining.

The motion urges the Commission “to ensure that all relevant legislative and budgetary proposals are fully aligned with the objective of limiting global warming to under 1.5 degrees C”.

Renew Europe MEP Pascal Canfin, who initiated the move, said it made Europe "the first continent to declare a climate and environmental emergency. It is not about politics, it is a matter of our common responsibility,”

Canfin said the parliament is meeting the expectations of European citizens.

With an increasing number of severe weather incidents occurring across the world and temperature records being beaten every year, climate change is becoming an issue many see as hard to ignore.

But dissenters objected to the word “emergency”, saying it was too drastic, and “urgency” would suffice.

Ursula von der Leyen, who will become president of the EC on December 1, has proposed a 'European Green Deal' with aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. This would see no additional greenhouse gases being added to the atmosphere.

A report earlier this week said that greenhouse gas emissions rose to record levels in 2018 despite some global efforts to mitigate this.

The Green Deal would include carbon taxes and heavier investment in sustainable business alongside pollution reductions.

But frustrated scientists and activists warn that despite such declarations, action is still lagging to hit the Paris Agreement target of curbing emissions enough to keep temperature rises to within 1.5-2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels.

The 28-nation EU is the first multilateral bloc to call a climate emergency, but joins numerous individual countries and cities from Argentina and Canada to New York and Sydney.

Lobby groups were pleased but wanted more action.

“Five years ago, no one would have expected the European Parliament to declare a climate emergency, so there’s some progress,” said Greenpeace’s EU pointman Sebastian Mang, adding that “drastic cuts” in emissions must follow.

The EU declaration comes after the European Investment Bank said it would end financing for fossil fuel projects from 2021 in favour of renewable projects and “clean energy innovation”.

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