'Our house is on fire': EU Parliament declares climate emergency

European politicians have voted to declare an EU-wide climate emergency. Source: AP

The European parliament has made a symbolic move to declare a global climate emergency in a bid to force member states into action.

A "climate emergency" has been declared by the European Union's legislature in a symbolic bid to push the issue as high as possible on the agenda of the EU's executive team.

The parliament in Strasbourg, France, voted by 429 to 225, with 19 abstentions, to call the increasing environmental challenges linked to climate change an emergency.

Renew Europe MEP Pascal Canfin, who initiated the move, said it made Europe "the first continent to declare a climate and environmental emergency".

Mr Canfin said the parliament is meeting the expectations of European citizens.

Climate activists in Berlin earlier this month.
Climate activists in Berlin earlier this month.

But environmental campaigners said the declaration was not backed by sufficient action.

“Our house is on fire. The European parliament has seen the blaze, but it’s not enough to stand by and watch,” said Greenpeace’s EU climate policy adviser, Sebastian Mang, shortly before the vote.

The EU has long been at the forefront of the global climate debate, a role that has been reinforced since the United States pulled out of the Paris climate agreement.

With increasingly erratic weather patterns from wildfires in Australia to floods in Europe being linked to climate change, governments are under scrutiny to find urgent solutions at the United Nations' summit in Spain on December 2-13.

Dissenters objected to the word "emergency", saying it was too drastic, and "urgency" would suffice.

Frustrated scientists and activists warn that despite such declarations, action is still lagging to hit the Paris Agreement target of curbing emissions enough to keep temperature rises to within 1.5-2 degrees celsius of pre-industrial levels.

However, the EU parliament's vote should help shape policies for the bloc's incoming executive head, Ursula von der Leyen, who assumes office on December 1.

The 28-nation EU is the first multilateral bloc to call a climate emergency, but joins numerous individual countries and cities from Argentina and Canada to New York and Sydney.

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