Environmental Setbacks Replace Emission Cutbacks

Photo Courtesy of inhabitat.com

European countries are no longer making as much progress regarding climate change as they once were. Leaders are no longer focusing on greenhouse gases emissions, and instead are concerned by issues regarding economic growth. Government officials all round Europe are therefore currently looking to restrict their environmental efforts. An urge for environmental responsibility emerged on the world stage ever since the European Union became an official party to the Kyoto Protocol when it ratified the convention in 2001. Additionally, since 2008, countries such as France, Germany, and the United Kingdom have had a responsibility and binding agreement to reduce their emission greenhouse gases.

Contrarily to countries who signed the Protocol but never ratified it (like the United States) or others who withdrew or never joined (like Canada and Andorra), European countries have held an important and ambitious position in the global arena of climate change for quite some time. When it comes to debate, European countries have always been amongst the strongest pushers for more environmental progress. If countries such as Germany and France pull back, there will be major global consequences.

Unfortunately, the risks associated with such progress are deemed too high currently. Protecting the environment is second to the need for a stable economy and various leaders are more concerned with short-term consequences on high gas and electricity prices than the planet’s wellbeing. These high prices harm various European countries and economies, not only as a cause of unemployment but as a serious energy price gap as well.

While some countries seriously reconsider their commitment to a green economy, others such as Spain, Portugal, and Greece continue to support transforming their economy. These countries suffered deeply from the financial crisis, and yet, citizens of these countries hope that a cleaner, greener economy will lead to an economic boost and new jobs.

A majority of European citizens do not question the consequences of climate change anymore. Destructive winds and floods in the past month have sufficiently worried the European population enough that climate change should be on the top of the political agenda. As a continent, Europe cannot afford any more environmental setbacks. And yet, the current situation poses new challenges to European governments: how to successfully stick to meaningful environmental policies while acquiring environmental benefits. Overall a difficult task at that, but an important one and definitely a possible one.

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