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All eyes are on Ursula von der Leyen because the political local weather will get hotter than ever

Because the European Fee president prepares to ship her doubtlessly last State of the European Union speech on Wednesday, we should look again at her legacy, Ursula Woodburn writes.

The EU has been combating local weather change for many years. However with this summer season confirmed as the most well liked but globally — it is time to work with our worldwide allies and switch up the temperature dial on local weather motion.


Final Friday, the United Nations launched its first International Stocktake, a course of following the Paris Settlement by which international locations pledged to observe their collective progress in reaching the agreed targets.

In what the World Assets Institute has known as a “actually damning report card” for international local weather efforts, the important thing takeaway message is that we’re not on observe to fulfill the goal of the Paris Settlement. 

To maintain international warming beneath 1.5 levels Celsius, we should scale up ambition and implement clear know-how options now.

One more essential local weather second occurred over the weekend, on the G20 summit in Delhi. 

Although leaders didn’t conclude on a timeline for phasing out fossil fuels, European Fee president Ursula von der Leyen put ahead a profitable settlement to triple renewable power capability globally by 2030, within the run-up to COP28.

So the place does that depart us in Europe?

Adjustments to the roster in VDL’s last yr

Forward of the EU elections subsequent yr, the controversial Nature Restoration Regulation simply made it via parliament in July. 

Frans Timmermans has led the EU’s Inexperienced Deal and local weather coverage since 2019, launching one of many broadest set of local weather legal guidelines the world has seen. 

However now the local weather champion has resigned, and the bloc’s competitors torchbearer Margrethe Vestager has gone on depart to pursue the presidency of the European Funding Financial institution.

Von der Leyen acted decisively to cope with the adjustments within the European Fee school — though questions stay over how this might influence her last yr. 

She swiftly assigned the brand new Vice-President place to Slovak socialist Maroš Šefčovič, who’s an skilled operator on the broader power points — and from whom we are going to want strong help for the Inexperienced Deal. 


She has additionally handed the local weather portfolio to former Dutch Overseas Minister and conservative Woepke Hoesktra.

However as Ursula von der Leyen prepares to ship her doubtlessly last State of the European Union speech on Wednesday, we should look again at her legacy.

Not all is so rosy regardless of robust strikes amid crises

Her flagship initiative, the European Inexperienced Deal, with the idea of Aggressive Sustainability at its core, has proved resilient within the face of a number of crises. 

Because of this, companies round Europe are appearing to scale back their very own emissions, they’re speaking to their provide chains and contemplating what they should put money into sooner or later. 

The bulk have been unwavering of their help — even regardless of a sequence of crises which shook the EU to its very core.


Within the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU targeted on greening our financial restoration. The plan, named NextGenerationEU, invested €806.9 billion to make Europe greener, extra digital and extra resilient. 

Following Russia’s warfare in Ukraine, the bloc then stepped up its deployment of renewable power and effectivity measures to answer the power disaster.

This despatched a powerful sign to companies that inexperienced progress was one of the simplest ways to ensure long-term resilience in future.

Nonetheless, it’s not all so rosy.

Worldwide developments and selections taken within the US and China proceed to complicate funding selections. The door to new funding in fossil fuels stays firmly open and nature restoration has not but been sufficiently addressed.


So how will companies be impacted?

The 2040 goal needs to be firmly addressed

In a interval the place some — like Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo — are calling for a regulatory “pause”, policymakers and companies have to preserve their sleeves rolled as much as overcome any obstacles of their method.

The local weather disaster isn’t slowing down. Taking motion to sort out it isn’t an choice, we should as an alternative be sure that the transition in direction of a European economic system that prioritises folks, nature and local weather goes forward.

At this unstable time, companies could make a distinction by calling for a transparent, inexperienced coverage path (on the depth, breadth and scale wanted) to assist them plan and unlock mandatory investments.

What’s extra, we’re in search of the EU — and von der Leyen this week — to firmly handle the 2040 goal. 

From a enterprise perspective, this implies setting a local weather goal of lowering greenhouse gasoline emissions within the bloc by no less than 90% by 2040.

Just a few years in the past this goal may need appeared inconceivable.

However motion taken already by policymakers and companies has demonstrated that such ambition is inside attain — offering carbon removals are restricted to not more than 8-10%. 

Europe should act to remain within the working

Separate targets needs to be set for nature-based carbon elimination and technological carbon elimination — to enhance transparency and accountability.

The long-term way forward for Europe is rooted in financial prosperity, with companies which have efficiently invested in sustainability staying aggressive globally. 

Latest experiences have proven that we’re in a world race to the highest on zero carbon applied sciences, and Europe should act to remain within the working. 

All of us might want to pull collectively to construct on the transformation enabled by the Inexperienced Deal, together with the subsequent EU establishments.

Who the 14th President of the European Fee will probably be nonetheless hangs within the steadiness. Within the meantime, the EU should warmth up its resolve and act now.  

Ursula Woodburn is Director of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Management on the Europe workplace, driving company help for a climate-neutral, nature-positive and sustainable economic system.

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