EU civil servants demand drastic action on climate emergency
Tired of waiting for an effective top-down solution from leaders, European Union staff members have embarked on an initiative to pressure the organisation to “declare a planetary emergency” and do all in its power to stop “the impending climate and ecological disaster.”
Who in the EU is calling for action on global warming?
Calling themselves EU Staff 4 Climate, the group launched a petition for EU civil servants to sign demanding strong measures and a European Green Deal. At the time of writing the petition has close to 11,000 verified signatures and rising, around 20% of the union’s total workforce.
In a statement full of IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) citations stressing the severity of the emergency, the group warns that “there is little time left.”
“We need to make unprecedented changes across all aspects of life. We as citizens are committed in our individual lives to make that change, but greater change is necessary.”
The group admits that “doom and gloom” is not a solution, but it emphasizes that “awareness and information” are crucial.
Read on below for Selectra’s analysis of the petition’s seven demands and what they mean:
- The EU must declare a planetary emergency and put it at the very top of its agenda, ahead of economic growth. In essence, the EU must “tell the truth about the problem.”
- The European Union must create a new institutional infrastructure to direct and prioritize actions including the establishment of a European Commision climate change task force and the union must fast-track climate mitigation.
It is a stark fact that, although the reality of a hotter planet is worse, a decarbonised society will be a different place to live, so the European public must be given a say in how that society is planned. Until now, governments and industry lobbies have been the main parties to negotiating action to save our climate.
Climate change mitigation means the whole of European, and indeed global, society must radically improve its energy mix, consumption patterns and economic model, so a “broad democratic debate” about the changes needed and how to transition to them is required.
This means rolling-out an information campaign across the member states to inform people of the science and its ramifications.
As the EU Staff 4 Climate group says “The initiative needs to be shifted from those who are invested in the incumbent system to those whose future is at stake.”
Reduce EU greenhouse gas emissions by 10% every year from 2020 to 2030 and set up a “transparent monitoring system.” The reduction must include making the most serious polluters “truly accountable” and completely phasing coal out within six years and radically cutting other fossil fuels within 11 years. For comparison, the UK plans to become a net-zero emitter of carbon by 2050.
The redirection of all EU policies explicitly towards creating a sustainable and carbon-neutral society and economy including the common agricultural policy, the distribution of EU funds, research and innovation programmes.
Climate change is profitable, so private business too needs to be redirected via regulation towards a clean economy. While the industry can use fossil fuels and still make money, climate mitigation will be fighting a losing battle.
Even if the EU achieved all the necessary goals to clean up its act, if the rest of the world goes on with business as usual it will have little effect.
So, the EU must use its global power and influence as a tool, including making its trade and development policies conditional on other countries taking significant steps to sequester carbon, restrict emissions and restore ecosystems.
Goods and services from economies which do not levy carbon taxes should be subjected to carbon tariffs if they want to trade with the EU.
- The EU institutions themselves must practice what they preach and “lead by example” by allocating carbon budgets to all operations to achieve a carbon neutral status by 2030, addressing the most polluting operations first.
The group, which describes itself as “concerned citizens, parents, grandparents and as employees whose duty is to act in the public interest”, has been busy since launching the petition in June. It has been organizing and holding conferences, workshops and meetings with scientists and EU leaders and joined the global Climate Strike in September.
The initiative comes at the beginning of a new EU Presidency, new EU Parliament and new EU Commission.
EU Staff 4 Climate describe this as a “last-chance opportunity” for the leaders of the world’s largest economy to face up to “the unprecedented challenge of the planetary emergency we are facing and to radically change the course of civilization.”
At a climate gathering in Brussels, one member of the group, Piotr Rapacz, explained why it was formed.
“We are committed as civil servants to act in the public interest, and saving the planet is the biggest public interest there is.”
The EU Staff 4 Climate is one more example of a bottom-up reaction to the global warming crisis.
Year after year, the once-nebulous nightmare of our climate catastrophe slouches towards us, increasingly making its presence felt in people’s daily lives and with every hour that passes, achieving a solution becomes ever-more challenging.
If our societies had taken the issue seriously earlier and addressed climate change in the 1980’s, the amount of work now needed would have been orders of magnitude lower.
And while decades of warnings coming from scientists in various fields have failed to provoke anything but the most minimal of actions from governments and industry, something fundamental seems to have changed in the world zeitgeist.
After twenty or thirty years of stubborn, stony sleep, communities everywhere are waking up to the looming disaster, to the revelation of just how badly things could fall apart if the approach of the beast is left unchecked. They appear to have had enough of waiting for the authorities to get a hold on the crisis.
Politicians, business leaders and journalists who have been made very aware of the greatest threat to our way of life short of nuclear war since Greta Thunberg was rocking in her cradle now face her scorn and indignation across international conference tables.
Mistaking her innocence for naivety, they and the media latched onto her hashtags and attempted to channel the 16-year-old’s passionate intensity towards boosting their own profiles with a typical lack of conviction.
Once she had their attention, she bravely threw it back in their faces asking them “how they dared” to turn her into some kind of token green messiah and telling them not to listen to her, but “listen to the scientists”.
The concerned citizens of Extinction Rebellion are another case in point.
The highly-visible climate emergency activists are not just the usual rebellious youth latching on to a cause, they come from diverse walks of life and include pensioners, students, workers, city dwellers and country folk, celebrities, academics and farmers.
XR, as it has come to be known, is a decentralized grass-roots organization that has spread around the world from its UK birthplace.
Its tactics of mass civil disobedience have already borne fruit, including convincing national and regional governments, from the UK to the Vatican to Bangladesh to listen to the scientists and admit the existence of a state of climate emergency.
This gathering of public momentum is critical if long-term catastrophe is to be avoided. The more of our peers we see demanding climate mitigation, the more comfortable we will feel like doing the same thing.