UK youth staged an action outside of the Palace of Westminster Thursday to advocate for meaningful commitments on climate change as the deadline for Europe’s 2030 climate targets approaches.
The action occurred as German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived at Westminster for a highly anticipated visit. Merkel filled her day with a slew of diplomatic activities, including delivering an address to both houses of the British parliament, meeting privately with Prime Minister David Cameron, and having tea with Queen Elizabeth II.
The last time a German head of State addressed the British parliament was nearly 30 years ago.
The UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC) seized on this occasion to urge Merkel and Cameron to push for ambitious and binding climate change targets.
Flick Monk of the UKYCC said:
The EU must lead the way on climate change targets. Other countries see the EU as a leader in climate change policy. If we are to stay within 2 degrees of warming, we must have ambitious climate change targets from all negotiating blocs—especially the EU—in the run up to the Global Deal that will be negotiated in 2015.
The protesters called for Merkel and Cameron to take note of climate science and the recent extreme weather in the UK, which may be linked to global warming. They urged for Germany and the UK to lead other EU governments to an ambitious greenhouse reduction target.
The road to establishing 2030 targets has already been long and contentious. A 50% emissions reduction target over 1990 levels was rejected early in the negotiations, despite support from UK climate change and energy secretary Ed Davey.
A European Commission proposal released on 22 January 2014 called for an emissions reduction target of 40% by 2030 and a 27% renewable goal. These targets would be binding at a European level, but not at a national level.
The white paper received mixed reactions in Europe and abroad. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, UN Secretary General heralded the plan as “transformational” and Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, called it “a positive signal for a meaningful 2015 agreement.”
Environmental groups, however, responded with a mixture of skepticism and dismay. The Alliance of Small Island States called the proposal “disappointing,” and the WWF said the plan would put “Europe’s economic modernisation at risk.”
As the European Council prepares to take up the white paper in March, environmental groups, including the UKYCC, are expected to continue pressuring European leaders to take a strong stand on climate change.