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The latest climate change news from WWF

Farmers are on the front line of climate change, but can become climate champions if the policies are right © iStock photoBrussels, Belgium - 11 April 2019

Just days before EU agriculture ministers were due to discuss the EU's long-term climate strategy, it has been taken off the agenda. What's more, a crucial report on the impact of agriculture policy on the climate has still not been released by the European Commission, although it was due in summer 2018. With the need for climate action more urgent than ever, it is alarming that the major role of farming in causing greenhouse gas emissions, and its potential to help absorb them, appears to have been pushed to the back seat.

Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at WWF European Policy Office said:
"It is baffling that discussion of the climate strategy has been scrapped from the Agriculture Council agenda with just two days' notice. Tackling the impact of farming is crucial to keep global warming to 1.5°C, and the EU's long-term climate strategy is the European cornerstone to this. The fact that the assessment of the CAP's impacts on climate change is still missing is another worrying sign of the EU's failure to appreciate the urgency of action.

"It is imperative that the long-term climate strategy be on the agenda of the next Agriculture Council in May. In this way, ministers can share their solutions on how the farming sector can help climate action before Heads of State and Government discuss the strategy in June."

Jabier Ruiz, Senior Policy Officer, Agriculture & Food at WWF European Policy Office said:
"Farmers are currently climate victims - on the front-line of climate change - but if we act swiftly, they could actually become climate champions while safeguarding their business and jobs. They could do this by pressing for rapid emissions cuts and adopting practices that help store more carbon in soils and landscapes. It is essential that such action be part and parcel of the EU's long-term climate strategy and the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy."

More information:

The EU Agriculture Council takes place on Monday 15 April.

Why is the link between agriculture and climate change so important?
The agriculture sector is on the front-line of climate change, which is already disrupting weather patterns, crop cycles and harvest levels. If not stopped, climate change will have devastating impacts on the entire farming sector.

Yet the sector is a major contributor to the climate change which is crippling it. Ten percent of EU greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture - fifteen percent if you include  on-farm energy use and changes in the amounts of carbon stored in agricultural land.

However, as a land-based sector, farming also has potential to actually help fight climate change. It can do so by tackling the emissions it causes, while also using land, plants and soil to absorb and store carbon.

The Common Agricultural Policy is the main policy tool that the EU has to drive the farming sector in a different direction. Unfortunately, to date the CAP has done very little to effectively support low-carbon and nature-friendly farming. While good examples exist, mainly as a result of certain agri-environment-climate schemes, these are generally underfunded, only getting about 5% of the CAP budget. Overall, the CAP continues to support mainly market-driven high-input farming practices, rather than rewarding environmental or climate commitments.

Reforming the CAP, and ensuring climate-friendly farming is part and parcel of the EU's long-term climate strategy as well as its agricultural policy, will help safeguard the sector's future as well as ensure it plays its part in tackling the crucial issue of climate change.

What is WWF calling for?

On CAP reform
The Common Agricultural Policy post-2020 is the main policy instrument that must be used to make the EU's agriculture system accelerate its evolution towards low-carbon and nature-friendly options. In practice, this involves supporting the highest environmental ambition in the CAP regulations.

This includes:

Firstly, maintaining the enhanced conditionality proposed for CAP payments, with requirements applying to all beneficiaries. The flexibility offered by the regulations will make it possible to tailor the requirements to national-regional conditions, and to focus the control system on the larger beneficiaries, which would diminish (but not exclude) controls on small farmers.

Secondly, ensuring a ring-fencing of part of the first-pillar budget to eco-schemes, in the range of 20-30% that the European Parliament has voted upon recently. These payments should not become a revamped greening; instead, they must be used to support specifically those farmers who deliver more environmental benefits, such as Natura 2000 and High Nature Value farmers.

Thirdly, reinforcing Rural Development and raising its budget allocation for environmental interventions to 50%, an objective which could also be achieved by transferring Areas of Natural Constraints payments to the first pillar of the CAP. This would enhance the availability of resources in a much stretched second pillar, which will be instrumental in achieving the higher environmental and climate ambition that the next CAP must ensure.

On the EU's long-term climate strategy

To help keep global temperature rise to 1.5°C as per the Paris Agreement, WWF believes the EU must be climate neutral by 2040, and raise its 2030 climate target accordingly, from 40% to 65% emissions reductions.

More specifically to the agriculture sector, there are three main areas of action that should be pursued in the long-term strategy:

Firstly, protecting and boosting the carbon content of farmed soils. Organic soils in particular must become a major priority. They may be a tiny fraction of the total but they offer a huge bang for your buck in terms of carbon storage - covering only 1.5% of EU cropland but
accounting for 55% of total cropland soil emissions, according to the European Commission's long-term climate strategy. Also, increasing carbon stored in mineral soils and landscapes, for example through agroforestry or reduced-tillage agriculture, would not only help fight climate change, but also boost fertility and make land more productive, making it a real win-win.

Secondly, phasing out incentives for purpose-grown biofuel or energy crops. Bioenergy from farm wastes has a role to play, and can reduce GHG emissions from residues like manure, but the Commission also proposes devoting large areas of land to energy crops, when letting unused or abandoned land reforest would actually deliver higher net emissions savings.

Thirdly, rebalancing livestock farming in Europe. Livestock farming and fertiliser use are the two activities which would prevent farming from being able to fully decarbonise in the longer term. Given that half of EU cereal production (and vast amounts of imported commodities) are used for feed, supporting a transition towards more environmentally-friendly EU production and consumption of animal products - and less of them - should be a priority.  Member States should consider seriously how consumers might be encouraged to adopt healthier diets.

Further links:
See the Agriculture Council agenda

Contact:
Jabier Ruiz Mirazo, Senior Policy Officer, Agriculture & Food
jruiz@wwf.eu +32 470 66 81 91​

Imke Luebbeke, Head, EU Climate and Energy Policy
iluebbeke@wwf.eu +32 2 743 88 18
 
Sarah Azau, Senior Communications Officer, 
sazau@wwf.eu +32 473 573 137
 
Posted: April 11, 2019, 12:00 am

What is Our Planet?

A Netflix original documentary series and groundbreaking collaboration between WWF, Netflix and Silverback Films, Our Planet showcases the world's natural wonders, iconic species and wildlife spectacles that still remain. We're all a part of this amazing planet, but we're changing it like never before. Discover the story of the one place we all call home.

Explore: www.ourplanet.com

Subscribehttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5MDIy3yhWDrx0MyDo4QmYg?sub_confirmation=1
Posted: April 10, 2019, 12:00 am
Posted: April 9, 2019, 12:00 am

What is Our Planet?

A Netflix original documentary series and groundbreaking collaboration between WWF, Netflix and Silverback Films, Our Planet showcases the world's natural wonders, iconic species and wildlife spectacles that still remain. We're all a part of this amazing planet, but we're changing it like never before. Discover the story of the one place we all call home.

Explore: www.ourplanet.com
Posted: April 9, 2019, 12:00 am
EU and Paris agreement © Jampur Fraize/WWFWhat is the 'EU long-term climate strategy'?

The 2015 Paris Agreement asked signatories to come up with long-term climate strategies. The EU's draft strategy was published in November 2018. This is now being discussed at EU and Member State level. The strategy should be finalised by 2020.

What does it say we need to do?

It says that the EU must be climate neutral (zero net GHG emissions) by 2050 to tackle climate change. This would bring huge benefits. To reach that, every sector of the economy must be transformed: this is challenging but possible.

What are the benefits of net zero emissions?

Higher EU GDP by 2%, increased employment, €200 billion per year saved in health benefits and €2-3 trillion in fossil fuel imports, says the draft strategy. And that is without even counting the benefits of avoiding climate change.

How do we get there by 2050?

Energy efficiency will have a crucial role, and burning fossil fuels must virtually stop, says the draft strategy. A 'spectacular' increase in renewable energy is needed, and a move to a fully circular economy with clean industry.

What does WWF think?

WWF thinks the draft is a good step forward, picking up on the urgency of climate action and the central role of energy efficiency, renewables, industrial transformation and a fair transition. However, it should be more ambitious: the EU should aim to reach zero net emissions by 2040, not 2050, and the EU's 2030 climate target will need to be increased - which isn't mentioned in the draft.

Anything else missing?

The need to decommission the gas grid, and stop investing in more gas infrastructure. Moreover, the draft says more land should be used for energy crops, when this actually would be counterproductive in climate terms.

What happens next?

It is now up to EU heads of state and government to respond to the Commission's draft proposal. WWF calls on them to respond to the huge public support for climate action across Europe by agreeing as soon as possible on the aim of a climate neutral EU by 2050 or ideally, 2040, commit to revising the EU's 2030 targets accordingly, and then challenge the rest of the world to do likewise.

Read WWF's briefing on the EU long-term climate strategy proposal
Posted: April 5, 2019, 12:00 am
Factory by a river in Cumbria © © Global Warming Images / WWF
Brussels, Belgium - 27 March 2019

What's happening?
The European Parliament is voting in plenary on Thursday 28 March on how to classify economic activities according to their degree of sustainability - the EU's so-called 'taxonomy'. MEPs will also consider whether these results should be made public.

Sébastien Godinot, Economist at WWF European Policy Office said:
"When you buy a fridge, an EU label shows you instantly how efficient it is. We need to do the same for the environmental impact of all economic activities. This will help investors, banks and companies make more sustainable choices, and ensure our whole economy transitions towards sustainability. We urge MEPs tomorrow to vote for a useful taxonomy with multiple rating levels. This way, they can show the EU's claims to be a sustainable finance leader are founded on solid ground."

More information:

Why does this vote matter?
The taxonomy would help companies to understand how to make their business model more sustainable, and push financial institutions to integrate such green rankings into their investment and lending processes. This would gradually move the whole economy towards full sustainability. The vote is a major test of whether the Parliament is serious about aligning our European economy with the Paris Agreement's climate goals and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
 
What does WWF want?
An ambitious taxonomy would classify all economic activities on the basis of their degree of environmental performance, showing which are better for the planet, which are less good, and which are damaging. This could look like the EU's successful Energy Efficiency label, which ranks all buildings and cars in terms of their energy consumption. WWF and other NGOs have sent an open letter to MEPs with our asks.
 
The European Parliament vote is scheduled for 12.00pm on Thursday 28 March. The EU Council, which needs to reach agreement with the Parliament on the final taxonomy, has not yet finalised its position.
 
Contact
Sébastien Godinot
Economist, WWF European Policy Office
+32 489 46 13 14
sgodinot@wwf.eu

Sarah Azau
Senior Communications Officer, WWF European Policy Office
+32 473 57 31 37
sazau@wwf.eu
Posted: March 27, 2019, 12:00 am
MEPs must vote to put funding towards helping Europe's poorest regions move to a sustainable economy, rather than to fossil fuels © CAN Europe
This week the European Parliament will vote on how billions from the EU budget should be spent in Europe's least prosperous regions. Their choice is stark: fund the fossil fuel industry or support a transition to a clean, sustainable economy. It is one of their last votes before the EU elections in May.
 
Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy from WWF European Policy Office said:
"How will we remember these MEPs? Will it be for helping keep the dying coal industry alive and locking in harmful gas, or for ensuring all areas of Europe have help to move to a cleaner, safer economy? One thing is clear: the future is clean and sustainable. To ensure their voters can reap the health and economic rewards, MEPs must vote to exclude fossil fuel funding from EU money." 
 
MEPs are voting on EU Cohesion Policy on Wednesday 27 March and specifically, the European Regional Development Fund. Cohesion Policy funding aims to reduce territorial disparities across EU's regions, particularly in central and eastern Europe.
 
The European Commission had proposed in May last year to exclude fossil fuel support from EU's Cohesion Policy funding. However, this exclusion was then watered down by MEPs on the regional development committee who revived funding possibilities for fossil fuels, in particular gas for the transport and heating sector, and for coal in district heating.  

An open letter from business, cities and NGOs has been sent to MEPs, calling on them to rule out fossil fuel investments.The signatories of the letter are concerned that allowing gas and other fossil fuel investments would lock-in climate-harmful infrastructure in European regions despite the urgency to act on climate change, and would cut European economies out of the new jobs, enhanced competitiveness and modernisation arising from the clean energy transition. Further investments into fossil fuel infrastructure will undermine the EU's ambition to become carbon neutral by mid-century or ideally, 2040.
Posted: March 27, 2019, 12:00 am
Fire people at WWF concert to celebrate Earth Hour in Sofia 2009 © WWF/Vesselina KavrykovaBrussels, Belgium - 22 March 2019
 
Commenting on the European Council conclusions adopted today on the EU's long-term climate strategy, Ester Asin, Director of WWF European Policy Office said:
 
"Once again, Heads of State have given citizens and scientists the cold shoulder on climate action. They adopted conclusions today which are meaningless. Without a fixed timeline for reaching net zero greenhouse emissions in the EU - 2050 or ideally 2040 - this agreement is just words on a page.
 
"It is mind-boggling. With our survival on a cliff-edge, some countries actually appear to be going backwards. Germany, a formerly progressive country on climate, is palling up with the likes of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to oppose the greater ambition that France, Spain, Luxembourg and others want.
 
"This cannot stand: leaders must set a firm course for climate at the next European Council meeting in June. People will not stop pushing for climate action, so their leaders must stop putting the planet on the back-burner and pay heed, for the sake of the climate, for citizens, and for their own legacy."

The conclusions state:


The European Council:
– reiterates its commitment to the Paris Agreement and recognises the need to step up the global efforts to tackle climate change in light of the latest available science, especially the IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above preindustrial levels
- emphasises the importance of the EU submitting an ambitious long-term strategy by 2020 striving for climate neutrality in line with the Paris Agreement, while taking into account Member States' specificities and the competitiveness of European industry;
– calls for the timely finalisation of the national long-term strategies;
– recognises that the implementation of the Paris Agreement objective offers significant opportunities and potential for economic growth, new jobs and technological development and for strengthening European competitiveness, which must be reaped while ensuring a just and socially balanced transition for all;
– calls on the Council to intensify its work on a long-term climate strategy ahead of a further discussion in the European Council in June 2019.
Posted: March 22, 2019, 12:00 am
People protest against climate change © © WWF Intl. / Antonio Amendola / The StandBrussels, Belgium - 20 March 2019
 

Commenting on the upcoming European Council conclusions on climate, Ester Asin, Director of WWF European Policy Office said:
 
"Are EU leaders about to tell their citizens to get lost? If Heads of State fail to fix a target year of 2050, or ideally 2040, for net zero emissions, they are ignoring the hundreds of thousands of people calling for climate action across Europe and beyond, and the advice of all credible scientists. Locking us into unsustainable, dangerous business-as-usual is simply not an option when the future of our planet and our children is at stake, and when the many benefits of rapid action, for health, GDP and jobs, are there for the taking."
 
What's happening?
EU leaders are due to adopt conclusions on the European Commission's proposed long-term climate strategy when they meet this week.
 
Why is it important?
The EU needs to uphold its international commitments to try and avoid catastrophic climate change. Only one of the options in the European Commission's proposed climate strategy would help keep temperature rise to the 1.5°C limit agreed in Paris in a sustainable way. EU leaders can give the European Commission a mandate to pursue an ambitious, enforceable, Paris-aligned climate plan which brings all communities and regions into a net zero carbon economy.
 
What do we need?
In WWF's view, EU Heads of State must support a net zero emissions target for 2040 and 65% emissions cuts for 2030. Only then will EU policy start to come in line with the Paris Agreement. The European Parliament has called for net zero by 2050 and a 55% 2030 emissions reduction target, which is not enough but would be a step in the right direction.
 
However, early versions of the conclusions mention 'climate neutrality in line with the Paris Agreement' but with no target year, which makes the commitment meaningless and would massively undermine the EU's action on climate change. At a time when global leadership is required this would be a shameful abdication of responsibility.

Further information:
The EU is drawing up a long-term climate strategy. Last November, the European Commission published its proposal, which contained eight options for future emissions reduction, only one of which - the eighth scenario - proposed a viable means of upholding the Paris Agreement's climate goals. WWF is calling for a net zero goal for 2040 and 65% emissions cuts for 2030 based on energy efficiency, renewable energy, circular economy principles and nature-based solutions to CO2 removal, such as the protection and restoration of forests, wetlands and other ecosystems.

While the EU is moving too slowly, and not enough, public support for greater climate action is huge, and still growing. On 15 March, 1.4 million people marched and went on strike for the climate globally. This followed weeks of regular protests for more climate action around the world, after the first climate strike was launched by Greta Thunberg in Sweden last summer.

The European Parliament also supports more ambition. Last week, a 2050 net zero greenhouse gas emissions objective for the EU and a higher 2030 emissions reductions target were endorsed by the European Parliament.

Contact:
Imke Lübbeke
Head of Climate and Energy, WWF European Policy Office
+32 2 743 88 18
iluebbeke@wwf.eu  

Sarah Azau
Senior Communications Officer, WWF European Policy Office
+32 473 57 31 37
sazau@wwf.eu
Posted: March 20, 2019, 12:00 am
Climate protesters © WWF EPOBrussels, Belgium - 14 March 2019

A 2050 net zero greenhouse gas emissions objective for the EU and a higher 2030 emissions reductions target have been endorsed by the European Parliament. This is a clear signal to EU heads of state of the support for a Europe which upholds its Paris Agreement commitments as they consider the EU's long-term climate strategy next week.

Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at WWF European Policy Office said:

"With people turning out in record numbers for the climate, MEPs have shown they take citizens' concerns seriously, and want to step up climate action. Their support for net zero greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by 2050 latest, and higher cuts by 2030, is an encouraging sign to EU Member States, who are currently considering the EU's long-term climate plans and preparing their national climate and energy plans."

MEPs were voting on the EU's draft long-term climate strategy. WWF supports a 65% emissions reduction target for 2030 and net zero emissions by 2040 to be in line with the Paris Agreement's 1.5°C temperature limit.

MEPs:
  • Endorsed net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 and urged Member States to do the same, and regretted that no net-zero GHG pathways before 2050 were modelled
  • Committed to fully supporting young people in this fight
  • Supported a Just Transition Fund
  • Called on the Commission and the Member States to support a strong medium-term target for 2030, as current ambition is insufficient
  • Supported the EU reviewing and updating its contribution to the Paris Agreement (NDC) to 55% economy-wide, domestic emissions reductions, compared to 1990 levels;
  • Wanted the Commission to present legislative proposals raising the ambition level in line with the updated NDC and the net-zero emissions target by 2022-2024 latest;
  • Called on the Commission to present a new and integrated EU industrial climate strategy for energy intensive industries in support of a competitive net-zero emission heavy industry transition

Contact:

Imke Lübbeke
Head of Climate and Energy, WWF European Policy Office
+32 2 743 88 18
iluebbeke@wwf.eu  
Sarah Azau
Senior Communications Officer, WWF European Policy Office
+32 473 57 31 37
sazau@wwf.eu
Posted: March 14, 2019, 12:00 am
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