Brussels, my love? EU plays good cop at a bad COP?

Brussels, my love? EU plays good cop at a bad COP?

In this edition of Brussels, my love?, we discuss the ongoing COP28 and what role the European Union has to play in fighting the climate crisis.

Our guests this week were Chris Hocknell, director of the sustainability consultancy Eight Versa, Suzana Carp, EU climate policy specialist, and Dharmendra Kanani, Chief Operating Officer at the Brussels-based think tank Friends of Europe.

As the severity of the climate crisis grows, leaders from around the world are meeting in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, for the UN’s COP28 to discuss ways to keep global warming in check and prevent a catastrophic increase in global temperatures.

The conference has attracted controversy and accusations of green-washing, charges which intensified after conference president Sultan al-Jaber denied the science behind the phasing out of fossil fuels.

Dharmendra Kanani lambasted the growing reluctance to tackle climate change in the face of growing evidence of the consequences.

“We keep on hearing from scientists that this is the hottest year ever,” Kanani said. “Yet politicians are dithering.”

In terms of what’s at stake at COP28, Suzana Carp named the implementation of the Paris Agreement as the top priority.

“What we need to do at this COP is put together human ingenuity, innovation and investments so that we move quickly in the direction of scaling up the technologies we need,” Suzana said.

Chris Hocknell identified the contrasting views between the EU and nations like the UAE towards the green transition as a contributor to inaction on addressing climate change.

“I think the problem is that we’re talking to people on different levels and different views,” Chris said. “What Europe needs to really do is work out how it builds the bridges and brings those people who are thinking about exploiting their fossil fuels until the very last moment on board.”

Panelists also discussed the health implications of air pollution.

The European Environmental Agency recently reiterated the fact that poor air quality remains the continent's largest environmental health risk, causing various health problems and being responsible for hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year.

Suzana Carp called the lack of action on improving air quality “worrying.”

“All of these risks are being exposed and yet nothing is really being done, Suzana said. “We have to move faster on banning the internal combustion engine.”

Dharmendra Kanani highlighted the severity of the figures.

“Air pollution is killing Europeans more than car accidents at the moment,” Kanani said. “We need to have a better sense of how do you pollute and make air consumption less toxic.”

Chris Hocknell pointed to London as an example of protecting air quality through regulation.

“In the last seven years there’s been some quite substantial steps,” Chris said. “That was a combination of increased pedestrianization and quite aggressive mandates on what is considered to be compliant.”