Alexandre Mato (Brussels) | A Spaniard heads the European drive against climate change. It is Miguel Ariete Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy. Cañete was much criticised when he was nominated, and the Greens tried to block his confirmation in the European Parliament, because of his past machista comments as a Spanish politician and his investments in hydrocarbon companies. Paradoxically Cañete has now become the great ally of the ecologists. In private, Green MEPs recognise that without Cañete it is likely that the recent global climate change summits, Paris and Katowice, would have failed. They see him as the key leader in Europe.
Cañete is proud of the work done in this legislature and with his latest “toy”, the Innovation Funds, with which Brussels “puts its money where its mouth is”, an English expression for talking of the willingness to move from words to actions. “We will need to develop clean innovative technologies at an industrial scale”, he says, “to attract to the market these technologies in energy intensive industries, in the capture of CO2, its storage and use”.
At a time when in the US the young Congress woman Ocasio-Cortez supports a green New Deal as “an umbrella for a combination of policies and programmes which moves America away from fossil fuels and causes the country to slow the climate crisis”, in the words of Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, an organisation driving this economic policy, the EU is taking firm steps in the ecological transition.
The Environmental Performance Index (EPI), realised jointly by Yale and Columbia Universities in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, classifies 180 countries analysing not only CO2 emissions, but also 24 indicators which cover issues from environmental habitat protection to air pollution, urban water treatment of heavy metal tipping.
You have to get down to place 17 to find a non-European country, New Zealand, although it is true that not all are EU members. Switzerland leads a ranking where among the other first twenty only Norway, Iceland and Israel are not members of the EU. France, Denmark and Sweden are among the best EU countries; the US appears at number 27. The objective of the EPI is to measure at national level how close countries are to fulfilling the UN objectives on Sustainable Development and the Paris Accords´ targets.