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Reflecting on the climate in the days of Coronavirus: ambitious goals in times of crisis

2020 is likely to be one of the hottest years ever recorded and, while the average sea level continues to rise behind the melting polar ice, the European Commission is launching the first climate bill

The New Year didn't take long to make itself known and, only three months after its beginning, it has forced us to look at the world through internet, everything and the opposite of everything has made its way through our thoughts and forecasts for our future. We still don't know what kind of summer awaits us, but one thing is certain – climate models are telling us that it will be very hot.
If the first three months of 2020 were the second hottest quarter ever recorded, the whole year seems to be destined to follow the same footsteps.
An analysis of the Carbon Brief (NASA GISTemp data) estimates that there is a 95% chance that the global average temperature in 2020 is one of the 4 highest ever recorded. At the same time, the continuous melting of the glaciers and ice caps, as well as the thermal expansion of the warming water, continues to raise the average sea level. 
Although in recent months the communication on the pandemic has overshadowed issues related to the climate crisis, it is worth asking how this serious health crisis can affect the impacts that some economic sectors have and will have on the environment and the climate. The European Environmental Agency is trying to give us an answer.
The immediate effects of the lockdown on pollution (NO2, CO2 emissions) have been recorded in China and northern Italy, but it is not clear what the long-term effects may be. In order to have a more plausible view of the extent and duration of this pandemic, data on all production sectors and their environmental impact will have to be analysed, but without a change in our consumption habits and production systems, any reduction data recorded will be destined to return to previous or higher levels than those of before the lockdown, with very high costs for society.
This global crisis confronts us more than ever before with the need for change: a transition to a resilient economic and social model that is the result of a process - gradual but irreversible - towards what is called "climate neutrality" (or carbon neutrality, the so-called "zero emissions").
Although according to Report No. 15/2019 (European Environmental Agency 2019), greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere have decreased by 23.2% since 1990, the target for 2030 of 40% decreases seems a long way off. Despite this decrease, the SOER report of 2020 (European Environmental Agency 2019) shows a slowdown in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, waste reduction and improvement of energy efficiency. To achieve our 2030 targets, we should radically transform the way we produce and consume products and services.
It is in this context of global emergency (March 2020) that the European Commission submitted the first proposal for a European law entirely on climate change, which aims to make the EU's objectives even more ambitious. The proposal requires the European Commission to revise the current 2030 target and "assess the options for a new 2030 target of a 50-55% reduction in emissions compared to 1990 levels". It also proposes to regularly assess progress towards climate neutrality, mitigation efforts and climate change adaptation measures taken by the Member States.
It is the Executive Director of the European Environment Agency, Hans Bruyninckx, who asked himself a fundamental question: "can we achieve our ambitious goals in the years to come when we face the consequences of this crisis?" A socially just transition, planned and implemented over the long term, is the only way forward to create a resilient society with a strong and sustainable economy. 
The one due to Covid-19 is an unprecedented health crisis that has forced us to review our place in the world, to observe nature gain space from our windows and not take for granted even a breath of air. Will it also lead us to seek the answers to the many questions about our future?

European Environmental Agency. "Trends and projections in Europe 2019. Tracking progress towards Europe's climate and energy targets." 2019.
European Environmental Agency. "The European environment - state and outlook 2020. Knowledge for transition to a sustainable Europe." 2019.

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