When I heard that EU leaders had signed off on more ambitious climate targets at this week’s two-day summit, I breathed a genuine sigh of relief. 

Neil King

DW’s Neil King

I can’t say I was surprised that the 27-member bloc has now subscribed to a 55% reduction as opposed to its previous 40% compared to 1990 levels. It was a necessary and expected move — a move that was lent added urgency by this week’s UN Emissions Gap Report and the Climate Change Performance Index, both of which highlighted our collective failure to limit global warming. 

First step toward 2050 carbon neutrality

Although the EU’s decision was overdue in this context, the news from Brussels made me feel extremely good this morning. It broke as a young maple tree was being planted in my garden. It should have gone into the ground in November, but we were told the weather was just too warm and that we should wait until December when all the leaves had fallen off. 

December — just one of the many indications that our climate is changing fast.

Both the tree and the EU’s pledge to cut carbon emissions faster give me hope for a greener and more sustainable future for my children.

And I’m profoundly grateful that our leaders did not let the virus, Brexit, budget infighting and lobbying stop them from doing the right thing this week. Of course, it remains to be seen how the 55% pledge is actually implemented at a national level. But it’s the first step to getting Europe on track to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. 

A man stands on his roof as a bushfire burns in Calfornia

A new UN report says countries are on track to heat the world by 3.2 degrees Celsius this century by continuing to burn fossil fuels and clear trees

The EU’s decision has reconciled me with what has been a bleak year, one which will go down in history as the coronavirus year. 

But the real existential crisis to humanity is not the pandemic — that will eventually pass no matter what we do. It is the climate crisis, and that won’t pass, unless humanity acts decisively as a global community. 

Despite what you may think reading this, I’ve never been part of the tree-hugging crowd, but I think I’ll go out into my garden now and give my new tree a pat.