Climate and environment

  86 Debates

The EU Parliament has given the green light for the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). After years of dispute, a large majority voted in favour of a compromise between the 27 member states and the Commission. Among other things, the reform stipulates that in the case of direct subsidies a quarter of the funding will be tied to sustainability criteria. For some the reform doesn't go far enough, while others find it unfair.

In the final hours of the World Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, the wording of the final declaration is still being worked out. Issues at stake include the acceleration of the coal phase-out and the key question of when climate-damaging emissions must fall to net zero. But Europe's media also highlight important progress on the fringe of the discussions.

Week two of the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow is underway and declarations of intent by political leaders need to take concrete form if they are to have an impact. On Saturday around a hundred thousand people took to the streets in a show of frustration at the lack of results so far. The press also remains sceptical.

Ten EU countries are calling on Brussels to label nuclear power as a green source in the EU's taxonomy for sustainable activities. Among them are states like France, which have long relied on nuclear power, and also countries like Poland, which only now plan to start building nuclear power plants. The taxonomy is seen as an important guide for sustainable investments. Commentators are divided.

China and Russia have stayed away from the 26th World Climate Conference in Glasgow. India has announced that it will not be able to achieve climate neutrality until 2070. Countries that have had lower levels of emissions in the past are often more affected by the consequences of climate change, while industrialised nations and global companies are more likely to benefit from the green revolution. Europe's press takes stock of these contradictions.

In 2019 Vladimir Putin was still telling people that the causes of climate change were not clear. In the meantime the Kremlin has abandoned its vague stance and has announced plans to make Russia climate-neutral by 2060. Commentators discuss how realistic this is, what led to the change of heart and how serious Moscow is about achieving its goal.

The heads of state and government gathered at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow have kicked off the event with urgent appeals. The US promised to adhere to its climate targets. Germany made the case for global carbon pricing and India said it was aiming to become climate neutral by 2070. For Europe's press, it is clear that the time for statements of intent is now over.

Rising energy prices coupled with the need to reduce emissions are shifting the focus back to nuclear power - and not just in France. Europe's commentators discuss whether nuclear power plants can be seen as a sustainable option under the current circumstances.

French President Emmanuel Macron has outlined in a speech how he wants to make France greener and more digital by 2030. He said further investments are needed in nuclear power, which he described as absolutely key to achieving the climate goals. But this is also about business: shortly after Macron's speech the French state energy company EDF submitted an offer to Poland for the construction of four to six nuclear reactors.

The 76th United Nations General Assembly ends on Friday. The major topic is clear: the climate emergency. Secretary-General António Guterres warned on Tuesday that the world was "on the edge of an abyss". Then came the announcements: China will stop building coal-fired power plants abroad and Turkey wants to join the Paris Agreement. Welcome developments but still not enough, commentators stress.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presented its latest report on Monday. According to the findings, the current global warming is undoubtedly due to human activities and is progressing even faster than many had feared. The report concludes that some consequences, including higher temperatures, droughts and a rise in sea levels are irreversible even if emissions are drastically cut. But humankind still has the power to prevent the worst, the report stresses.

The Council of State, France's highest court for administrative issues, has fined the state 10 million euros for doing too little to combat air pollution in the first half of 2021. Although maximum particulate matter values have been in force for more than ten years, several cities continue to exceed the limits. A number of environmental protection organisations have filed suits against the state. Commentators disagree over the extent to which the judiciary should help shape environmental policy.

Firefighters and inhabitants in Greece, Turkey and Italy continue to battle countless wildfires. Numerous towns and villages have had to be evacuated, and some of the most valuable forests and agricultural land in the Mediterranean region have been destroyed. And there is no sign of the situation improving because the next heat wave with temperatures above 40 degrees is imminent.

For two decades the residents' initiative Save Roșia Montană has been fighting against the mining company Gabriel Resources, which wants to mine local gold deposits estimated at around 300 tonnes - the largest in Europe - and is also pushing for resettlement. Now Unesco has decided to add the ancient Roman mining tunnels in Roșia Montană to the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Severe floods have killed more than 190 people - mainly in Germany and Belgium, with the Netherlands also affected but avoiding fatalities. Now the big clean-up is beginning and evacuees are returning to their homes, although many have lost everything. Europe's press debates what to do about gaps in disaster prevention and how Europe can be better prepared for the effects of climate change.

Temperatures hit 49.6 degrees Celsius last week on Canada's Pacific coast, a region not previously known for its hot weather. Temperatures in the range of 40 degrees are also expected this week. The country has seen several hundred heat-related fatalities and more than 100 wildfires are raging, also in the north-west of the US. Commentators discuss whether the event might force politicians and climate change sceptics to rethink.

After protracted negotiations, the EU has agreed on a reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that moves towards bringing the allocation of subsidies more in line with social and environmental criteria. Direct subsidies, which make up the largest part of the budget, are to be at least partly tied to certain conditions. Europe's press is unimpressed.

An unusually strong tornado for European standards has swept through the south-east of the Czech Republic, leaving several people dead and many injured as well as widespread destruction in its wake. Its wind speeds were estimated at 300 to 400 kilometres per hour. Now thousands are confronted with the devastating consequences.

Estonia's government wants to pay the country's state-owned energy company Eesti Energia 10 million euros in subsidies over two years to burn wood in old power plants. The goal is to keep energy costs low in the structurally weak north-east region. Estonia has an abundance of forests, but since Tallinn gave permission for the clear-cutting of trees even in nature reserves in 2015, its forested areas have shrunken. The national press is nonplussed.

For weeks now, the Sea of Marmara has been covered by layers of algal slime called "sea snot" or "sea saliva". Gigantic white swathes of the slime can be seen in satellite images of the area. Conservationists, fishermen and politicians are alarmed. Turkish media complain about the abuses that are causing the problem and the government's seeming lack of concern.

Environmentalists have won an important legal victory in the Netherlands: a court has ordered energy company Shell, which has its headquarters in The Hague, to reduce its CO2 emissions by 45 percent compared to 2019 levels by 2030. This is the first time a company is being forced to comply with a climate target. Shell plans to appeal the ruling.

The European Court of Justice on Friday issued a temporary injunction requiring Poland to immediately cease brown coal mining in Turów. The Czech Republic had brought the suit before the court because the groundwater level is sinking on the Czech side of the nearby border. What does the dispute mean for Poland and Polish-Czech relations?

On June 13 the Swiss are to vote on three hotly debated environmental policy proposals. The CO2 Act aims to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, while two popular initiatives focus on the use of pesticides. The first wants to link farmers' subsidies to measures to protect drinking water and the second aims to ban synthetic pesticides altogether.

In many European countries new laws are under discussion to reduce emissions and counteract climate change. Commentators ask how much we must sacrifice if we want to save the climate - and how environmental protection and a growth-oriented economy can be combined.

The US aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, President Biden announced on the first day of his climate summit, calling on the major industrialised countries to join forces to solve the problem. President Xi Jinping of China, the biggest CO2 emitter, also committed to reducing emissions, but only from 2030 on. A look at how Europe's press is reacting.

April 22 is Earth Day. This year, several of the world's political heavyweights are making ambitious announcements. The EU wants to cut CO2 emissions by 55 percent instead of 40 percent compared to 1990 by 2030, and US President Joe Biden is hosting a climate summit with 40 heads of state and government to follow up on global emissions targets. In the view of Europe's press, however, far more must be done.

The European Green Deal is intended to form the core of the EU's coronavirus recovery package. The EU Commission has also set up the 'New European Bauhaus' initiative, which is to combine design with sustainability, barrier-free access and investment. Meanwhile talks on the EU Climate Law, which is due to be passed this spring, are faltering. Faced with this constellation, Europe's commentaries reflect a sense of unease.

The UN Paris Climate Change Conference (COP21) ended on 12 December 2015. The key decision taken there was the goal of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius. What was celebrated as a breakthrough in climate policy at the time has yet to produce decisive results, commentators lament. But some also see glimmers of hope.

The EU member states reached an agreement on Wednesday on reforming the Common Agricultural Policy. In future, 20 percent of each EU country's direct payments to farmers must be reserved for organic regulations. The current subusidies system is mainly based on the area cultivated and has been blamed for the decline of small farms and biodiversity. Observers are sceptical about whether this compromise will bring true change.

Apart from the rout suffered by President Macron's LREM party, the most striking feature of the French local elections at the end of June was the excellent results of the Greens. A Citizens' convention had previously drawn up a series of climate protection measures. In other European countries, too, environmentally friendly measures such as wider cycle paths have met with widespread approval during the pandemic. Has the time come for green ideas to become tangible policies?

Members of the French Citizens' convention for the climate have presented their recommendations to the government. They want two of the 149 measures to be put to the people in a referendum: the inclusion of environmental protection in the constitution and the introduction of ecocide as a criminal offence. Is this too much or too little direct democracy?

Sweden's highest environmental court on Monday gave the green light for Preem, the country's largest oil company, to expand its refinery in Lysekil in western Sweden. The Social Democrat-led government is expected to approve the project despite the concerns of its junior partner, the Green Party. Sweden's press is unhappy.

People all over the world are affected by the coronavirus and the associated restrictions. At the same time the lockdown is a positive development for the climate. Nitrogen dioxide levels in major southern European cities such as Madrid and Milan have gone down by around 50 percent, for example. The difference can even be seen from space. Commentators discuss whether the pandemic could have a lasting positive impact on the environment.

With winters getting warmer real snow is becoming increasingly rare in the Alps. Ski races often require the creation of artificial snow pistes in a complicated process that leaves a white track surrounded by brown, snowless areas. In mountainous Switzerland, where skiing is very popular, a debate has broken out about whether the sport has a future in these times of climate change.

The bushfires in Australia have claimed at least 27 human lives and according to estimates killed more than a billion animals since October. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who until now had fiercely defended the coal industry, has announced the introduction of new measures to reduce CO2 levels. Commentators discuss what can be done to prevent such disasters and what role Europe can play.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has unveiled a package of measures aimed at making Europe climate neutral by 2050. The plan foresees the EU spending a trillion euros on its 'Green Deal' by 2030 and includes a CO2 tax on imports produced under conditions that don't conform to EU climate standards. Commentators in Northern, Eastern and Central Europe voice their concerns - for very different reasons.

Under the "climate emergency" declared by the European Parliament after a vote passed by an overwhelming majority the EU Commission and the member states must in future assess all their decisions in terms of their impact on the climate and the environment. Individual cities and states had already passed similar resolutions. Journalists are not very impressed.

Shortly before COP25 - the UN Climate Change Conference - kicks off in Madrid, a new UN report has set alarm bells ringing: the goals of the Paris Agreement can only be met by slashing greenhouse emissions by seven percent per year over the next decade. None of the national climate plans formulated so far would achieve this goal. On the contrary, greenhouse gas emissions are increasing worldwide. Commentators demand action.

At the UN Climate Change Summit in New York, Greta Thunberg accused world leaders of failing the younger generation. "All you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth," the 16-year-old said. Commentators discuss Greta's symbolic character on the world stage.

The New Yorker has published a highly controversial essay on climate change by US author Jonathan Franzen. In the piece Franzen calls on humanity to prepare for the consequences of climate change, which he says can no longer be prevented. Not all commentators agree.

According to the Fridays for Future movement more than four million people in over 160 countries took part in the global climate strike on Friday. They called on politicians to meet the targets set out in the Paris Climate Agreement. Greta Thunberg demonstrated in New York, where the UN Climate Change Summit kicks off today, Monday. Can the protesters bring change?

With the Amazon region facing the worst fires in years, Brazil's government has banned slash-and-burn clearance in the dry season. The G7 states offered financial support to fight the fires but Bolsonaro said he would only take the money if Macron apologised for accusing him of lying about his commitments to environmental protection.

Bucharest's Mayor Gabriela Firea wants to combat air pollution in the city by introducing controls on traffic. Among other measures a tax is to be levied on vehicles that drive through Bucharest. Residents of the city and surrounding areas would, however, be exempted from the tax. Opinions in the Romanian press are divided.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has started out on her voyage across the Atlantic from Plymouth, in southern England. In roughly two weeks't time the yacht will reach New York, where Thunberg will participate in the UN Climate Change Summit in September. Commentators increasingly criticise the hype surrounding the 16-year-old and explain who stands to benefit from it.

This summer an area of the Amazon region almost four times as large as in the previous years has been deforested, satellite images show. The rainforest produces a fifth of the planet's oxygen and is therefore considered the 'lungs of the world'. Sixty percent of the forest is in Brazil - where President Jair Bolsanaro is pushing deforestation. Europe's press issue urgent calls to action.

The IPCC is warning in its new report about food scarcity caused by global warming. It calls for a total overhaul of land use, particularly in agriculture and forestry. The alarming report prompts commentators to think about how Europe can overcome obstacles in the fight against climate change.

Agricultural experts from SPD, the Greens and the German animal protection association Deutsche Tierschutzbund, are calling for an increase in VAT on meat products, which in Germany currently stands at seven percent. Among those to reject the motion are the party leaders and the minister for agriculture. But the debate has long since exploded in the European media.

With effect from next year France will introduce an eco-tax on flights ranging from 1.50 to 18 euros on the ticket price, depending on the distance flown. The EU Commission is also apparently examining various ways to tax the aviation sector, one of them being a kerosene tax. Not everyone is convinced that this is the way to go.

Record temperatures were registered in Paris on Thursday and in many other European capitals it was the hottest day since recording began. The press discusses whether we need to change our attitude towards climate activists and inconvenient climate protection measures in our daily lives.

The EU heads of government and state were unable to agree at a special summit on the goal of a climate-neutral Europe by 2050 because Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Estonia blocked the decision. A mere footnote now states that "a large number of states" want to achieve this goal. Commentators are incensed and stress that this won't be the end of the matter.

Finland has announced plans to reduce its emissions to zero by 2035, however its government has yet to name specific measures. The UK, by contrast, has unveiled a list of measures ranging from expanding renewable energies and reforestation to dietary changes with which its aims to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050. What else needs to be done?

Approximately one million plant and animal species are now threatened with extinction. With this figure the World Biodiversity Council underlined the urgency of its first global report on Monday in Paris. Human beings are destroying the very life they depend on, warned Robert Watson, chairman of the UN body. Commentators say they know what needs to be done - but not how to do it.

A team of Australian scientists has assessed 73 studies on species extinction from around the world and come to a dramatic conclusion: the populations of almost half of all insect species are declining so rapidly that insects could die out completely in the next hundred years. The major causes are intensive farming and urbanisation, the researchers say. What should be done?

The Fridays for Future climate protection movement is on track for a record turnout at protests this Friday. Young people in more than 1,000 locations and almost 100 countries plan to take to the streets to demand that politicians take action against climate change. Europe's commentators are full of praise and encouragement - but also raise a few questions.

The Austrian government passed a law banning plastic bags at the end of last year. Now its implementation is being worked out with retailers. Environment Minister Elisabeth Köstinger (ÖVP) wants "an end to plastic waste". It is estimated that the ban on plastic bags will reduce such waste by 5,000 to 7,000 tonnes. But commentators have their doubts about the effectiveness of the ban.

The EU has agreed on a law that would ban single-use plastic products starting 2021. Negotiators from the EU Commission, the EU Parliament and the EU states have agreed on the details of the legislation with the help of which cotton buds, plastic utensils and straws are to be banned. For commentators the law is a step in the right direction.

The EU has again approved the introduction of significantly tougher limits for CO2 emissions by 2030. The emissions levels of new cars are to be 37.5 percent lower in 2030 compared to 2021. The car industry has criticised the new rules. Commentators see the manufacturers' complaints about the move as the usual lobbying, but also call for more financial incentives for eco-friendly vehicles.

At the UN summit in Katowice the international community of states has agreed on a joint set of regulations for climate protection laying out how invidual states are to reduce their emissions and monitor each other's progress. The goal is to make the measures agreed three years ago at the Paris Climate Change Summit operational. Is the world starting to take climate protection seriously?

197 states at the Climate Change Conference in Katovice are discussing how to stop climate change, but time is running out. The Global Carbon Project has estimated that CO2 emissions will be 2.7 percent higher for 2018 than for 2017 - the biggest rise in seven years. What hurdles must be overcome in the fight against climate change?

The EU Commission's new climate strategy aims to make the EU 'climate neutral' by 2050, mainly by replacing oil, coal and gas with eco-friendly energy sources. In the run-up to the climate summit in Katowice some media are pushing for the EU and its member states to go even further, while others pin their hopes on future generations.

A citizens' initiative in Finland aimed at having a special tax on diesel cars abolished gained far more than the required 50,000 signatures within 24 hours. Now the parliament must address the issue. The initiative came about in response to a rise in the price of diesel fuel, which now costs as much as gasoline at many filling stations. Finnish commentators stress the advantages of diesel.

In a bid to slow down climate change and limit harmful emissions the Spanish government wants to ban the sale of vehicles with diesel, petrol and gas engines as of 2040 and take them off the roads entirely by 2050. Is the goal overambitious?

The EU Parliament voted on Wednesday in favour of banning throwaway plastic products. Prior to the vote researchers announced that they have detected plastic particles in human stool for the first time and now assume that there are no more plastic-free areas on the planet. But not all commentators are convinced that the decision passed by the MEPs will solve the problem.

The EU's environmental ministers have agreed on a compromise for CO2 emissions limits for new cars. They are to be 35 percent lower compared to 2021 levels by 2030. The EU Parliament had demanded a reduction of 40 percent, while the German government insisted on no more than 30 percent. Whereas for some the compromise doesn't go far enough, others ask whether it can be implemented at all.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned in its Special Report on Global Warming that the world is heating up faster than previously believed and with more drastic consequences. But the panel claims it is still "technically and economically possible" to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Commentators look at what needs to be done to achieve that goal.

The EU Parliament has declared war on CO2 emissions in transportation with new limits. From 2030 the CO2 emissions limit for new cars is to be on average 40 percent lower than for 2021. Negotiations with the EU Commission and the member states are next on the agenda. Is the Parliament jeopardising the future of Europe's automotive industry with its decision?

French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot announced his resignation in a live broadcast by radio station France Inter on Tuesday. The former environmental activist justified his decision saying that he felt that the government had left him "all alone" in his campaign for the environment. Many commentators find his actions understandable.

Beekeepers in Estonia have sounded the alarm after the death of millions of bees in the country in recent weeks. Government investigations into the first case of mass bee deaths have revealed that the bees were poisoned by a crop protection product used on a field of rapeseed. The Estonian press is shocked and decries modern man's alienation from nature.

With the One Planet Summit French President Macron has called for increased commitment on climate protection. More effort is needed to reach the climate targets agreed on two years ago in Paris, Macron said to the attending political leaders and private and institutional investors. While some journalists are critical of Macron's plans, others are delighted.

The diesel scandals as well as moves to ban diesel cars in several cities and other factors are raising the pressure to come up with a plan to combat air pollution and provide clean mobility. Europe's commentators examine the options.

Tropical Hurricane Irma has left a trail of destruction in the Caribbean and Florida, claiming at least 61 lives. Commentators criticise that manmade climate change is still being ignored and that some politicians have promised too much to the storm's many victims.

The EU member states are grappling over the issue of whether to relicense the weedkiller glyphosate, which is suspected of causing cancer in humans. Time is pressing as the current license expires on December 15. Commentators warn that consumer protection must be taken seriously and that the debate about the pros and cons of a ban should be transparent.

The EU Commission has presented a compromise proposal on CO2 emissions limits for carmakers: a binding quota for e-cars is off the table but the CO2 emissions of new cars are to be reduced by 30 percent by 2030 instead. According to media reports the car lobby and the German government put enormous pressure on EU Commissioners over the last couple of days to ease the regulations. Commentators are up in arms.

The UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn attended by almost 200 states comes to an end today, Friday. One main bone of contention was whether industrial countries should support poorer, developing states. Commentators have harsh words for the rich nations' lack of solidarity and take differing views of the coal phase-out initiative proposed by some countries.

The controversial weedkiller glyphosate can be sprayed on European crops for another five years, after 18 ouf of 28 countries voted in favour of the extension on Monday - with Germany's vote tipping the scales. While some observers are enraged by the way in which the decision was reached, others point out that the weedkiller shouldn't be demonised.

Islands of plastic in the oceans and a Chinese import ban on waste are forcing Europe to take action. The EU Commission has raised the possibility of a plastic tax to limit the use of the ubiquitous material. Not all commentators agree that this is the right step.

In more and more European countries voices demanding a ban on microplastics in cosmetics are growing louder. Finnish media see a ban as positive not just for the environment and people's health, pointing out that it could also be good for the economy.

In a bid to honour the Paris Climate Agreement, France's new Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot wants to ban sales of cars that consume petrol or diesel fuel by 2040. The country's media discuss how this target can be reached.

Three pesticides may no longer be used on open-air crops across Europe. A majority of EU member states voted in favour of banning neonicotinoids, one of the main factors held to be responsible for mass bee deaths. Are bees now adequately protected?

The EU Commission plans to tackle the plastic waste problem. Disposable products like plastic tableware, straws and cotton buds for which alternatives out of other materials exist are to be banned. Manufacturers of plastic products are also to be made to pay for their disposal and new subsidies will be introduced for recycling. This is a good initiative but it doesn't go far enough, according to press commentaries.

Just a few days after US President Trump announced the US's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement the first UN Ocean Conference has begun in New York. Europe's press looks at what the conference can achieve, but also at the shortcomings of the Paris agreement.

In Stockholm, the red-green government wants to introduce a tiered flight tax as of next year. A holiday trip to Thailand would then cost about 40 euros more, a trip to London about eight euros more. The idea is to encourage people to use more climate-friendly means of transport. Sweden's commentators are divided in their opinions on this issue.

One country after another is making moves to ensure that diesel and petrol engines become a thing of the past: Paris, Madrid, Athens and Helsinki plan to ban their production by 2025, with London following suit in 2040. In Germany the cartel scandal that has hit the automotive industry has added fuel to the debate. But commentators see bans as the wrong approach for various reasons.

France's government is planning to enshrine corporate social and environmental responsibility in the law, following up on an idea that President Macron voiced some time ago. At the time Macron said he wanted to renew the whole concept of what constitutes a company. But can a new law achieve that?

Brussels has given the green light for Bayer to buy Monsanto. The merger between the German chemical giant and its US competitor can go ahead, subject to certain conditions. The US competition authorities have yet to approve the deal. Environmental activists and many media are appalled by the news.