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Europe Should Lead on Climate Action

From China's renewables leadership to companies' carbon-neutrality pledges, the world has come a long way on climate policy in the last decade. But if we are to have any chance of avoiding the worst consequences of climate change, Europe must take the wheel – and hit the accelerator.

BRUSSELS – Since the massive mobilization effort that preceded the 2009 Conference of the Parties (COP15) in Copenhagen, the world has begun translating words and intentions into real action on climate change. European leadership – from government, civil society, and business – has played a pivotal role in driving progress. Given how much remains to be done, such leadership must continue – and become stronger.

The successes of the last decade should not be underestimated. In 2010, when I was starting out as Europe’s climate commissioner, only green radicals shared the objective of net-zero emissions. Many deemed the 80-95% emissions-reduction goal set by the European Union’s first long-term strategy to be too ambitious.

At that time, few would have believed that within ten years China would emerge as a renewables giant, or that Volkswagen and the Danish shipping company Maersk would set the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Volkswagen’s simultaneous announcement that it will produce 22 million electric vehicles over the next decade would have seemed similarly farfetched.

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