Renew Europe MEP Pascal Canfin, who initiated the move, said it made Europe “the first continent to declare a climate and environmental emergency”.
Canfin said the parliament is meeting the expectations of European citizens. The 28-nation EU has long been at the forefront of the global climate debate, a role that has been reinforced since the US pulled out of the Paris climate agreement.
And new EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has already stressed that climate change will be the top priority early on in her five-year term which starts on Sunday. She called the crisis “existential” and added “how can it not be existential when we see Venice under water, Portugal’s forests on fire, or Lithuania’s harvests cut by half, because of droughts?” The EU motion, however, does not legally oblige Brussels to take any specific measures and environmental groups seized on it to demand practical action.
“Declaring an emergency is important, but any such statement needs to be followed by emergency action,” said Wendel Trio, director of the Climate Action Network Europe. “The parliament needs to push for real, immediate action.”
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