Just as the old continent was the origin of the industrial revolution through the burning of fossil fuels, the revolution towards a decarbonized society must take place in it. That was the concept that the president of the government wanted to underline in the inaugural speech of the summit. But is the European Union really a world leader in the fight against climate change?

Last week we woke up to the following news. The European Parliament, the main forum for the representation of European citizens, declared a climate emergency assuming the discourse of the need to carry out immediate changes in the face of the imminent crisis. The resolution was approved by 429 votes in favor, 225 against, and 19 abstentions. In this way, Europe became the first continent to approve the climate emergency.

On the other hand, the European Commission, the executive branch and the latter with more room for maneuver than parliament, has announced that it wants to assume world leadership in the decarbonisation of the economy and in the fight against change climate. At the inauguration of COP25, the recently elected president of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyer, promised to present the European Green Deal before the end of COP25. This pact seeks to make Europe the first continent to reach the CO2 neutrality objective before 2050.

For its part, the European Investment Bank (EIB) assumes the strong commitment of become the European Climate Bank. The entity undertakes the commitment to stop investing in projects focused on fossil fuels and announces the intention to invest up to 100,000 million euros in the next five years for climate adaptation and mitigation projects.

European civil society is also one of the most conscientious a>s and less climate change deniers. According to a survey by the EIB itself, last year 78% of Europeans were alarmed by climate change. Being 87% in the case of Spanish citizenship that is among the most aware countries. If we move to the west, the neighboring country increases the figure to 93%, taking the lead. Regarding the imminent danger, 80% of the Portuguese perceive it as such compared to 59% of European citizens and 70% of Spanish society.

Given these data, it could be said that Europe wants to take the lead at a social and institutional level. The next question is obligatory, and are you doing it?

Well, it seems not, the continent shows signs of inability to reduce emissions. In 2017, energy consumption increased in Europe according to data from the European Environment Agency (EEA). ). This is largely due to transportation and results in an increase in CO2 emissions, making such ambitious purposes and historic declarations difficult.

It is important to see this situation with perspective. The agreements are to reduce emissions. In other words, they want to be able to emit less compared to previous years. But it does not stop issuing more in absolute terms. We continue to accumulate more greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere, although not in the same amount and in such a frenetic way, continuing to emit means continuing to contribute to climate change. The logical thing would be to propose to stop issuing.

Still, even so and everything, it seems that it is difficult to stop increasing emissions, when it should be stopping emitting. And the reason is historical. The European Union is the second world power that has emitted the most from 1965 to 2018, only behind the US, accumulating the figure of 216 billion metric tons of GHG. Then, even if it were possible to emit each year to the previous year, we would continue to increase the contribution to global warming.

Not only do we have to stop contributing to such an embarrassing figure, but we would have to start compensating for the damage caused. The historical debt that the European continent owes to the world cannot be hidden with high recycling rates, where they exist, or using cloth bags made in India and electric cars with Bolivian lithium; nor can it be silenced with empty speeches by politicians at climate summits sponsored with fossil money.

The motto of COP25 is Time to Act, from Naider we want to reformulate that motto, It is Time to Compensate. It is not worth declaring agreements, setting commitments and affirming in the surveys that we are a conscientious society. Compensation should focus both on capturing CO2 recovering lost forests throughout the planet, and on economic compensation to those countries that are most vulnerable to climate change and least responsible. The European Union has a debt to pay to the global South.

That it is time to act is indisputable, as it was 30 years ago. But the actions have to be relevant and have enough weight to really change the paradigm of consumption and carbon-dependence on which we base our societies. European societies (citizens, companies and public administrations) are among the most aware and the most polluting. How is this understood?

Aitor Mingo Bilbao

MSc in Cities and Sustainability