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EU Rolls Out a Plan to Become Carbon Neutral by 2050

EU Investment Plan Aims for Carbon Neutrality by 2050

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Climate Europe carbon
Greenhouse Gases such as Carbon Dioxide rises from chimneys of the Turow power plant located by the Turow lignite coal mine near the town of Bogatynia, Poland. VOA

By Lisa Bryant

The European Union rolled out a massive, trillion-dollar investment plan Tuesday to deliver on promises to make Europe the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050.

The EU would designate one-quarter of its budget to fighting climate change over the next decade. The trillion-dollar price tag would come from a mix of EU and national government funds, as well as investment from the private sector.

It targets the EU’s ambitious goal of ensuring greenhouse emissions reach net zero in 30 years. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who late last year announced that goal — a plan she calls the “Green Deal” — says the investments are for the climate, as well as EU citizens.

“It will be invested in the huge transition ahead of us, which consists of upskilling people in new jobs, clean technologies, green financing, new procedures,” she said.

Climate Europe carbon
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a media conference about the Carbon Neutrality plan of the EU. VOA

The plan prioritizes investment to help coal-dependent countries like Poland transition to green energy. Poland is the only EU member that has not yet signed onto the Green Deal, which would support scientists, businesses and other players in the energy transition. Some of the financing is seed money aimed at triggering much bigger investment.

States that want to qualify for funding must present proposals on low-emission projects as part of how they plan to restructure their economies to be climate friendlier.

The European commissioner for budget and administration, Johannes Hahn, detailed the investment plan at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

“We have no time to waste if we want to deliver results for the citizens,” Hahn said. “Or, again in a nutshell, we provide climate cash in order to avoid a climate crash.”

A recent poll shows Europeans fear climate change more than terrorism or losing their jobs.

Still, some EU lawmakers suggest details of the green investment plan are too sketchy. Others believe it should link the funds to deadlines for phasing out coal.

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The European Investment Bank, which is mobilizing the chunk of money, announced last year it would end financing for all fossil fuel projects by the end of 2020, and align future financing goals with the Paris climate agreement.

EU lawmakers are expected to hold a non-binding vote Wednesday on the Green Deal. Von der Leyen aims to have climate legislation adopted by March. (VOA)

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Climate Change Poses a Threat to the Health of Children

Report: Climate Disruption Threatens Health, Future of All Children

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Climate Change
A U.N.-backed report said Wednesday, warning climate change posed an urgent threat to the health and future of every child and adolescent. Pixabay

Many wealthy nations are letting the world’s younger generations down by failing to curb planet-warming emissions, a U.N.-backed report said Wednesday, warning climate change posed an urgent threat to the health and future of every child and adolescent.

A new global index showed children in Norway, South Korea and the Netherlands had the best chance at survival and well-being thanks to good health care, education and nutrition.

But a ranking of countries by per-capita carbon emissions put those and other rich nations, including the United States and Australia, close to the bottom on that measure, as major contributors to global health threats driven by climate change.

“Countries need to overhaul their approach to child and adolescent health, to ensure that we not only look after our children today but protect the world they will inherit in the future,” said former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, co-chair of the international commission that produced the report.

Climate Change
Students hold banners as they attend a climate school strike in London, Britain. VOA

Child flourishing, sustainability and equity

It said dramatic progress had been made in improving children’s lives in the past five decades but economic inequalities meant the benefits were not shared by all.

And the heating up of the planet and damage to the environment, among other stresses, meant every child faced an uncertain future, it added.

“Climate disruption is creating extreme risks from rising sea levels, extreme weather events, water and food insecurity, heat stress, emerging infectious diseases, and large-scale population migration,” said the report by more than 40 experts.

Commission member Sunita Narain, director general of the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, said that in her region of South Asia the main environmental threats came from water shortages and contamination, as well as air pollution.

Children’s health today “is at grave risk because of environmental degradation,” she added.

They are victims of a problem they did not cause — a situation that is particularly acute for the poor, she noted.

“The biggest inequity that we need to confront today is the inequity (of) climate change,” Narain told journalists.

The “sustainability” part of the index ranks countries on how their per-person emissions compare with a 2030 target giving a two-thirds chance of keeping global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.

Of the top 25 countries with the best score on emissions, all but two were African.

That contrasts starkly with the “flourishing” part of the index, where many African nations did badly on children’s health, education, nutritious food and protection from violence.

Climate Change
Climate disruption is creating extreme risks from rising sea levels, extreme weather events, water and food insecurity and that is why youngsters are protesting. Wikimedia Commons

Not one country performed well on all three measures of child flourishing, sustainability and equity, concluded the commission convened by the World Heath Organization, The Lancet medical journal and U.N. children’s agency UNICEF.

Protect and respond

Another key threat identified was exploitative marketing practices that push fast food, sugary drinks, alcohol and tobacco at children, increasingly through social media channels.

Report author Anthony Costello, professor of global health and sustainability at University College London, said children’s data was being harvested via online games and sold to big technology firms which then target youth with advertising.

“This is totally unregulated,” he said. “We think that there needs to be much greater attention to the protection of children around the world.”

They should also be placed at the center of efforts to achieve the global development goals agreed in 2015, he added.

Few countries have recorded much progress toward achieving those goals, which include ending poverty and hunger by 2030 and tackling climate change, the report noted.

Children should be given a bigger voice in policy decisions that affect their futures, it said — something they are already demanding through social movements like the school climate strikes that have mobilized students worldwide since mid-2018.

Jennifer Requejo, a UNICEF adviser on statistics and monitoring, said children could be involved through measures such as setting up local youth committees, informing them about their rights and having them participate in data collection.

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Costello said young people’s calls for a cleaner, safer world must be heeded by politicians.

“They are simply not responding at the moment in a way that is mature and evidence-based,” he added. (VOA)