Record Heat, Rain Marks Europe’s 2020 

As President Biden hosts a virtual climate summit this Earth Day, a report out Thursday adds more fuel to the planet’s growing crisis, showing record-breaking temperatures in Europe and Arctic Siberia last year. It comes as the European Union announced a key climate deal and financing rules — both sharply criticized by green groups.
The findings of the European Union’s climate monitoring service, Copernicus, are grim. Europe was hit by record heat and rainfall last year. The Arctic overall saw its second warmest year. Both regions are warming faster than the global average.  “Europe has probably warmed at twice the rate compared to the globe since the pre-industrial [time]. Whereas the rate of warming in the arctic over the last two decades, have been at least five [times] that of the global rate,”  says Freja Vamborg,  a senior scientist at Copernicus, and lead author of the latest Europe climate report.  “Especially Arctic Siberia was by far the warmest on record last year, which had local impacts on sea ice, which in turn had an impact on temperatures.” FILE – An aerial view shows a forest fire in Krasnoyarsk Region, in Siberia, Russia July 17, 2020. (Julia Petrenko/Greenpeace/Handout via Reuters)Thursday’s report brings new impetus for action during the Biden administration’s two-day climate summit — especially for the European Union, long considered a climate leader.  The 27-country bloc reached a tentative deal Wednesday to make its climate goals legally binding. The EU aims to slash greenhouse gasses by at least 55 percent by 2030 — up from its previous 40 percent goal — and become climate neutral by 2050.   Its executive arm has also published its first set of criteria for green financing — intended to drive billions of investment dollars into activities formally labeled climate-friendly. The so-called taxonomy rules initially deal with areas like forestry and bioenergy. Other industries, like nuclear energy and natural gas, will treated later.  The EU’s financial services chief, Mairead McGuinness, told reporters the package aims to help make the EU’s climate neutrality goals a reality.  European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis and EU Commissioner in charge of financial services, financial stability and the Capital Markets Union, Mairead McGuinness give a press conference in Brussels, Apr. 21, 2021.“Public money will not be sufficient. So, harnessing private investment for sustainable projects is absolutely key. The package today gives those who are investing, the knowledge of what is sustainable, but equally gives companies the tools to use in order to provide information to the market,”  she said.Not everyone agrees. Environmental groups have complained of a rushed process in reaching a climate deal. They also slam the first set of climate investment rules as shaped by political and business interests, rather than science. Several say they will stop advising the European Commission on drafting the rules. “The message is that the EU, which calls itself a climate leader, can’t even walk its own talk. It’s allowing activities which are harmful for the environment to be classed as green,” said Henry Eviston, a sustainable policy finance officer for the WWF’s European Policy Office. The environmental group blames lobbying by Sweden and Finland for watering down green financing rules related to bioenergy and forestry. It warns that other countries and companies are doing the same when it comes to areas like natural gas and nuclear energy.  Other observers agree the raft of competing interests make the drafting of green financing rules extremely difficult. Some fear if they are too stringent, they will thwart investment. But, says a Financial Times editorial echoing others, Brussels cannot ignore the science that’s at the heart of the climate change dilemma — and which these rules are supposed to address.  

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