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Europe Must Become a Global Climate Power

The urgency of the climate crisis demands that the European Union turn its world-leading climate agenda into foreign policy. By deploying the financial, market, and diplomatic tools at its disposal, Europe can lead the rest of the world toward a more sustainable future, as envisioned in the Paris climate agreement.

BRUSSELS – The world is eagerly watching the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and looking forward to a return to normalcy after a year of lockdowns. But there will never be a vaccine for the other looming threat to humanity: climate change.

Apocalyptic images of forest fires in California and devastating floods in Bangladesh are harbingers of what awaits us if we fail to address the climate emergency. Without drastic action, such catastrophes will rage more frequently and ever more destructively. Moreover, climate change is one of the biggest geopolitical challenges we face. As a conflict multiplier, it fuels sociopolitical instability, creates migratory pressures, aggravates global injustices, and jeopardizes human rights and peace, especially in fragile states.

Climate scientists have made clear that to limit the rise in average global temperature to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels – the target of the Paris agreement – the world can emit only another 580 gigatons of carbon dioxide. That is our carbon budget – forever. Yet at the current global emissions rate of about 37 gigatons per year, we will have exhausted our budget by 2035. We therefore need to decarbonize without delay. Since the world has already warmed by 1.1°C, with temperatures in many regions having gone much higher, the next decade represents our last chance to tackle the problem.

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