Climate change ‘already well present in Europe and set to get worse’, parliamentarians told

Climate change caused by human activity is “already well present” in Europe, driving extreme heat waves, droughts, heavy precipitation, floods and rising sea-levels, and is set to get worse in the decades to come, PACE parliamentarians were warned this week.

Speaking at a virtual public hearing on climate change and the rule of law, organised by PACE’s Social Affairs Committee, Robert Vautard, Director of the Pierre-Simon Laplace Institute at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin, pointed out that average temperatures in Europe were likely to continue rising in all scenarios until about 2050.

“Only strong and immediate mitigation action towards carbon neutrality […] will allow temperatures to stabilise in the second half of the century,” warned Mr Vautard, who has co-ordinated a key report for the UN’s Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Mediterranean region would be a particular “hot spot” for climate change, he predicted.

“There is no planet B – this will be the biggest challenge in generations, and we must all rise to it,” he concluded.

Pawel Wargan of the Green New Deal for Europe said his job was to “speak truth to power” when it came to tackling climate change: “With governments failing to take action, we need to move from ‘reform’ of the current system to a much more radical approach of ‘invention’, with disruptive industrial action and the convening of sovereign popular assemblies to give citizens meaningful agency over their lives.”

Edite Estrela (Portugal, SOC), PACE’s Rapporteur on “The climate crisis and the rule of law”, underlined that the crisis was an opportunity for the Council of Europe to help change mindsets, something it has been engaged in for more than 70 years: “We must try to make sure the weakest do not become the first victims of the climate crisis, or suffer unfairly from the changes we must make.”