A “future of Europe” summit of 27 of the European Union’s 28 national leaders in Sibiu, Romania ended today with no declaration on fighting climate change, as had been hoped for by eight countries including France, Spain and the Netherlands.
The summit was scheduled two years ago by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, intended to plot the EU’s future after Brexit, which was meant to take place on March 30th. With Brexit now in doubt, the 27 other EU countries nonetheless decided to go ahead with the summit and did not invite British Prime Minister Theresa May.
The 27 leaders adopted a set of ten general conclusions for the EU’s future. The declaration concludes with the line, “A new Union at 27 is ready to embrace its future as one.”
The group of eight countries, which also includes Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Portugal and Sweden, wrote to all of the leaders ahead of the summit asking for them to commit to adopting the European Commission’s proposal to reduce emissions to “net zero” – a 95% reduction with the remainder being made up for by reducing emissions outside Europe – by 2050. They also want 25% of the EU’s next long-term budget to be devoted to fighting climate change.
The proposal is set to be voted on at a European Council summit next month, but the eight countries said an early commitment to adopt the target would send a signal that the bloc sees fighting climate change as a key part of its future.
Also ahead of the summit, over 16,000 students from all 28 EU countries signed a letter calling on EU leaders to commit to binding climate targets to decarbonize before 2050. “Right now Europe and the world is witnessing a movement that has never existed before,” the letter reads.
“We went for it because we are scared, because we fear that powerful people have started selling our future, and because we feel betrayed by your consistent lack of urgent action. We are a generation growing up in the middle of the sixth mass extinction, on a planet that has been damaged to an unimaginable extent.”
Some of those students travelled to Sibiu and unfurled a giant banner outside where EU leaders were meeting reading “Broken climate, broken future”.
However, the final declaration adopted by the leaders at Sibiu today mentions climate change only once in passing, in a section about the EU being “a responsible global leader” operating in a “rules-based international order”, which also talks about free trade.
“Many European leaders have heard the clarion call to action from EU citizens,” said Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, following the summit’s conclusion. “It is regrettable that many still fail to recognize their responsibility to act. Especially Germany, who used to be a climate leader, still turns a blind eye to the climate emergency. “
The plan needs to be approved by all 28 EU member states, and while France’s Emmanuel Macron enthusiastically supports it, Germany’s Angela Merkel is sceptical. Paris and Berlin clashed over the 2050 plan at a March European Council summit in Brussels.