Campaigners have called on world leaders for further action to “shift economies away from fossil fuels.”
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Campaigners have called on world leaders for further action to “shift economies away from fossil fuels.”

Campaigners have called on world leaders attending the climate talks in Paris to press for further action to “shift economies away from fossil fuels.”

They also condemned the “half measures” pledged by many governments at the start of the 21st climate talks.

The comments come after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker addressed the United Nations COP21 climate talks in Paris on behalf of the European Union.

The gathering of an unprecedented 147 world heads of state marks the start of two weeks of climate talks which are expected to deliver a global agreement aimed to take effect by 2020.

However, Susann Scherbarth, climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: “The EU is not the climate leader President Juncker would have us think”.

“Juncker boasted that the EU has already exceeded its emissions reduction target for 2020, then why has it come to Paris with such a low target of only 40% for 2030? The world’s poorest and developing nations will rightly not be convinced by this level of action.

“It’s true that citizens are already leading the energy transition, as Juncker said, but this is because Europe’s governments are failing to get us off fossil fuels. The EU needs to put all its weight behind the energy transition. “It is historic that so many world figures have come here today and talked about the severity of the climate crisis – but we will wait to be convinced by actions, not words.

“All over Europe and the world people have taken to the streets to call for the real solutions we need – and will carry on putting pressure on governments to shift our economies away from fossil fuels.”

Commenting on the French President, Francois Hollande’s opening speech, Florent Compain, President of Friends of the Earth France, said: “President Hollande stated that he wants an ambitious and equitable climate agreement.

“But how can France lead if it cannot reign in its polluters? Companies like Engie and EDF, in which the French state is a shareholder, still refuse to close their 46 dirty coal plants. This must change urgently, we need climate justice now.”

Friends of the Earth International – the world’s largest grassroots environmental network – says it does not have high expectations for the outcome of the ‘COP21’ climate summit.

Its members will be present in Paris to call for a “transformation of the energy system.”

Meanwhile, the European Parliament has adopted an initiative report outlining its position on urban mobility, which was drafted by Green MEP Karima Delli. After the vote, Delli said, “The European Parliament has voted in favour of reorienting of transport policy in our cities and ensuring it can respond to major challenges facing the sector today. We need to ensure the transport sector shifts towards renewable and truly sustainable energy sources and, ultimately, this means shifting away from car dominated systems and fossil fuels like diesel and petrol.

“Transport has major implications for climate change, public health and the environment. The sector is responsible for 70% of urban greenhouse gas emissions, whilst over 400,000 people die prematurely each year from air pollution, to which transport is a major contributor. We urgently need more proactive policy action to change this. As again highlighted by the Volkswagen scandal, this also implies rigorous air pollution laws that are properly enforced.”

The report calls for the reduction of CO2 emissions from urban transport. It also calls for the introduction of car emissions tests based on real driving conditions and without the loopholes currently being considered.

“Cities should develop sustainable transport plans including low emissions zones, safe speed limits, alternating traffic, affordable public transport and improved cycling infrastructure,” said  the deputy.

“The report also urges a greater implementation of smart transport systems, which aim to limit traffic, for example by developing car sharing or real time traffic information. Revenue from tolls or road taxes should be devoted to sustainable mobility projects.”

By Martin Banks