Climate and environment

  57 Debates

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.