Environmental issue: where do we stand?

 Environmental issue: where do we stand?

The summer has undoubtedly shown us the effects that climate change is having on the environment and our lives. As the hands of the Climate clock continue to run, inexorably, let’s take a look at what decisions are being made by two of the current significant world realities, Europe and the United States.

By Gloria Malerba, Youth Press Agency columnist

1.75 planets: the amount that, according to the Global footprint network (Gfn), the environmental accounting organization, the world’s population is currently consuming.

A figure that is expected to continue rising, reaching 2 planets by 2030.

In fact, as of last July 28, the resources that could be renewed by the Earth during this year have been exhausted, and from the next day, those of 2023 began to be tapped.

It is the so-called Overshoot day, calculated by Gfn itself, which also highlighted how each year it comes earlier and earlier than the last.

We are consuming more and more resources than we would have available.

This figure is a clear indicator of the impossibility of sustaining the current rates of exploitation and pollution of the Planet and the related serious climate crisis that we are and will be facing in the coming years

A video explaining what Overshoot Day means

Summer 2022 will be remembered as the summer in which the effects of the climate crisis became concretely visible, with increasingly long and frequent heat waves.

Water crises, droughts, floods, and fires: these are just some of the most extreme events that have developed in recent months, and the situation is set to get worse.

But what decisions have governments made to try to curb this serious reality, still underestimated by many?

In Europe, the transition to a more sustainable economy has become a necessity not only because of the ongoing climate crisis but also because of the policies practiced by Russia after it invaded Ukrainian territory in February. This decision led to, among other things, a general increase in energy prices.

Last July 26, at an extraordinary meeting of the Council of the European Union held in Brussels, energy ministers from member countries reached an agreement to reduce natural gas consumption by 15% by March 31, 2023.

The agreement, approved by all countries except Hungary, is based on voluntary cooperation by individual states, which, however, will become mandatory in case of emergencies.

In particular, in case Russia decides to reduce gas supplies unsustainably.

More generally, in May 2022, the European Commission unveiled the so-called REPowerEu plan, with the goal of becoming totally energy independent by 2027, gradually eliminating dependence on Russian fossil fuels.

The plan includes a series of measures recommended to the various states:

  • Shift from gas to alternative fuels, preferably renewable energy and nuclear.
  • Incentivize consumption reduction in all sectors, public and private.
  • Mutual aid by member states in case of supply disruptions.

The REPowerEU, however, has raised doubts within the European Court of Auditors.

It is based on investments requiring 210 billion euros, but, in reality, the money available would be much less. In fact, the Commission directly controls about 20 billion euros, while whether the rest of the funding can be used depends on the will of individual states.

Meanwhile, in one of the largest emitters of CO2 into the atmosphere, the United States, the climate plan, part of a larger package (the Inflation Reduction Act), put forward by current President Joe Biden was in danger of being rejected.

In addition to the climate issue, the bill also focuses on health care and tax reform.
Regarding the climate issue, it calls for the allocation of $385 billion in clean energy investments with the goal of reducing U.S. emissions by 40 percent from 2005 levels. A goal close to the president’s announced desire to cut emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030.

The plan includes incentives to be given to both private industries and households to get them to use more renewable energy and reduce consumption.

Among other things, the climate package includes investment in clean energy, reduction of methane emissions, investment in the production and deployment of wind and solar components, batteries, nuclear power, hydrogen production, electric vehicles, and emission reduction systems.

The bill, still awaiting actual approval in the Senate and House, was on the verge of being defeated due to opposition from a Democratic senator, Manchin.

He, at first, had expressed his opposition to the plan by precluding Democrats from gaining a majority in the Senate.

In fact, the current senator for West Virginia, a state whose economy depends mainly on coal, has been described as “the most Republican of Democrats”: he boasts that he voted for 74 percent of former President Donald Trump’s measures and spoke more with him than with Barack Obama.

Despite ultimately deciding to throw his support behind, the senator still managed to wrest concessions. He succeeded both in lowering the previously established investment figure (which would have reduced emissions by about 42 percent) and in including concessions to fossil fuels by providing for lease permits for oil and gas extraction.

Given these figures, one can only wonder how much longer we can afford to let discussion of the environmental issue be held back by economic and personal interests.

As I write this, the Climate clock (the indicator of how long the Earth has left before damage from climate change is irreparable) reads 6 years and 356 days–as you read this it will be even less.

Now is the time to take responsibility for your individual actions and how we select the people who are entrusted with relevant positions in this field.

The time has come for action.

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