A first-of-its-kind scientific study published 22 May 2023 in Nature, “Quantifying the human cost of global warming”, found that crossing the +1.5°C global warming threshold will push hundreds of millions of people, in particular in Nigeria, India and Indonesia, out of the ‘human climate niche’. The likelihood that we will cross this threshold within five years is estimated at 66 per cent. Conditions outside this niche are “too hot, too cold or too dry, and associated with higher death rates, lower food production and lower economic growth”. But EU conservative politicians are still setting out an anti-environmental stance for the 2024 EU elections.
Although the EU’s “Fit for 55” plan to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 55 per cent by 2030 has been rightly welcomed, there seems to be a lack of awareness that this means protecting nature too.
This can be seen by comparing quotes from a UN report and a recent statement of the Belgian Prime Minister:
UN: “Biodiversity loss and climate change are both driven by human economic activities and mutually reinforce each other. Neither will be successfully resolved unless both are tackled together.”
Prime Minister De Croo: “I ask to hit the “pause button” [on EU environmental legislation] but not as far as is CO2 is concerned”.
This statement must be seen in its political context: two months ago, a new political party born out of farmers’ protests against governmental plans to reduce the disastrous nitrogen pollution in the Netherlands, the “Farmer-citizen movement”, claimed a surprise victory in Dutch provincial elections, at the expense of conservative and extreme-right parties.
The conservative European People’s Party (EPP), the largest group in the EU Parliament, seems to have responded to this change by putting a war on binding environmental legislation as its main platform for next year’s elections.
On 1 June, an EPP spokesperson explained to Brussels’ largest agribusiness lobby, COPA-COGECA, that they wanted to “shoot down” the recent proposal for a Nature Restoration Law, (and the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Regulation) at the heart of the EU Green Deal, ostensibly to defend farmers and ‘food security’.
It is worth noting that the last time EU agribusinesses used the food security argument to obtain derogations to agri-environmental measures, after Russia attacked Ukraine, most of the resulting extra production was animal feed, not the promised wheat.
The EPP is not the only EU party claiming to be pro-farmer in order to hide their pro-big business and anti-nature line: this is also in the other conservative group, ECR, and the extreme-right groups playbook.
Meanwhile, following unprecedented floods and droughts, Spain, Portugal and Italy will receive hundreds of millions of Euros in emergency EU financial support for their farmers. The Commission also just greenlit Dutch government spending of nearly 1.5 billion Euros to buy and close some of the most polluting farms.
The resilience of our ecosystems is the only climate buffer we have, but EU right-wing and extreme-right politicians are trying to kill legislation that would help ecosystems recover.
They need to face facts. Current policies are dragging us towards 2.7 °C global warming, which could leave one-third (22-39 per cent) of humanity – more than two billion people – outside the human climate niche by the end of the century.