Europe faces extreme heat waves every two years over the coming decades as the effects of climate change drive up global temperatures, the EU’s environmental watchdog has warned.
In a report published on Wednesday, the European Environment Agency said that Europe would face heat waves that are more severe than recent record-breaking events every two years from 2050 onwards.
Hans Bruynincx, the agency’s director, said: “Europe’s environment is at a tipping point. We have a narrow window of opportunity in the next decade to scale up measures to protect nature, lessen the impacts of climate change and radically reduce our consumption of natural resources.”
The report makes sobering reading for the EU which prides itself on being a global leader in tackling climate change and meeting high environmental standards.
It warns that the EU’s progress towards cutting greenhouse-gas emissions and boosting the share of renewables in the energy mix has dropped off and that the bloc will miss its goals.
“Recent trends highlight a slowing down of progress in areas such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, industrial emissions, waste generation, improving energy efficiency and the share of renewable energy. Looking ahead, the current rate of progress will not be enough to meet 2030 and 2050 climate and energy targets.”
The EU has set a target to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030 but the environment agency says that without further action, emissions will only be cut by 30 per cent by the target date.
The report also says that the EU is failing to meet its goals for protecting soil, air and water quality.
“If current trends continue, they will result in further deterioration of nature and continued pollution of air, water and soil,” it said.
It points out that the failure to reduce air pollution is causing 400,000 premature deaths in Europe every year.
The European Commission will use the report in its arguments for an ambitious new European Green Deal, which is due to be unveiled on December 11.
The Green Deal, which will be the first major policy presented by the commission under newly elected President Ursula von der Leyen, is a plan to make the EU net carbon neutral by 2050. It is expected to include plans to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by up to 55 per cent by 2030 and includes a trillion euro sustainable investment plan.
Addressing a United Nations climate change meeting in Madrid on Monday, President von der Leyen said: “Our goal is to be the first climate neutral continent by 2050.”
Making the transition to a carbon-neutral economy would require a “generational change,” she said, while the Green Deal would “generate new jobs” and improve people’s quality of life .
The plan is expected to run into stiff opposition from Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary, all of which use a lot of coal for energy production.