Europe emphasises tackling climate crisis amid Covid-19

European Commission vice president, Mr Frans Timmermans in a video conference about dealing with climate crisis amid Covid-19 pandemic.

The European Commission vice – president, Mr Frans Timmermans, has angrily dismissed lobbyists’ attempts to use Covid-19 as an excuse to backtrack from dealing with climate and biodiversity crises.

In a video meeting this week, Mr Timmermans told the European Parliament’s environment committee that Coronavirus is not a justification for people to leave other imperative issues unattended to yet they are key to human life.

He said that the European Green Deal is not a luxury that can be shelved in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

“Let us not fall into the trap that some might want to use the Covid-19 crisis as an excuse to undo things that need to be done anyway.”

“We should not be under the illusion that because of Covid-19, the climate crisis or the biodiversity crisis has gone away,” he warned.

During his exchange of views with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on the environment committee, the Dutch politician was angry with people who kept writing to him about the need for personal protective gears against other problems affecting people.

“I really did not appreciate people writing to me and using the need for personal protective equipment as a reason not to have a ban on single-use plastics – there is really no relationship,” Mr Timmerman said angrily.

The commission official added that he had not yet received any other such bold demands, only indirect indication, but foresaw further calls for delaying the green deal from some sections of industry.

“Of course they will, and we look carefully at their arguments, but I think we should stick as closely as possible to the agenda we have declared,” Mr Timmermans said.

A dry field in Anosy Region, Madagascar. The absence of rainfall and prolonged drought have an impact on the crop. Photo: WFP/Giulio d’Adamo

The politician said pushing ahead with the green deal needs to be part of the EU’s recovery strategy adding that supporting the installation of solar panels, insulating homes and replacing old cars with low emissions models can deliver quick wins for jobs and health.

Recently, the European Union (EU) proposed a climate law calling for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century as Europe’s guiding principle through the recovery.

“It will show our pathway to climate neutrality is irreversible, and that we are willing to accept the rigour of a law to make it irreversible, Mr Timmermans said.

He added that work on an impact assessment and plan to raise the EU’s current target of a 40 percent emissions cut by 2030 would remain on track stressing that it will be done in September 2020.

The commission official echoed that it would be a neglect of duty not to continue work on the deal as part of the solution to the Covid-19 pandemic, stressing the need to convince citizens that it is “not a luxury that we don’t need now there is a crisis.”

Mr Timmermans added that Europe needs sector by sector, future proof plans for economic independence from fossil fuels.

“Look at the volatility of energy markets now – we don’t want to depend on that in the future,” he continued.

Responding to questions from MEPs, Mr Timmermans acknowledged that the already overdue EU strategy on biodiversity and a farm to fork strategy for sustainable food production would likely be delayed beyond the current 29 April delivery date.

“It might be a couple of weeks later, certainly not months,” Mr Timmermans said, adding that he was applying maximum pressure with the commission to ensure the delay is minimised.

“We need to prioritise those things that have an immediate effect on growth and employment, and yes we will take into account any fall in GDP.”

He reiterated the central point that climate change might not be the same huge, sudden shock as the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.

“You can compare climate change to high blood pressure: If you neglect it, it will kill you,” he warned.

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