Leaders fail climate, sustainability, change test at Sibiu

9 May 2019

Future of Europe debate concludes without action at Sibiu EU summit

Europe’s prime ministers met today in Sibiu, Romania, for a largely symbolic summit intended to renew commitment on the ‘issues that really matter to people‘.

The summit’s formal declaration, however, does not mention ‘sustainable Europe’, nor biodiversity collapse, and relegates climate change to an afterthought.

The post-summit press conference statements meanwhile did not mention sustainability, biodiversity or climate change once - whilst repeating ‘unity’ seven times. Commission President Juncker quipped that there was 'no urgent decision to take' - four days after the most comprehensive scientific warning of biodiversity collapse.

Out of touch

Friends of the Earth Europe branded leaders out of touch with citizens’ concerns and reality, and called for transformational change to tackle climate and ecological breakdown, and inequality, and to restore purpose to European cooperation.

The summit conclusions represent a reprehensible weakening from EU statements ahead of the summit, in which sustainability was more explicit.

Not prioritising reality

Jagoda Munic, director of Friends of the Earth Europe said:

“European leaders have failed to even mention climate action and sustainability in their concluding statements about the future of Europe - suggesting they are not prioritising citizens’ concerns or reality.

"Today’s display of European unity is a good thing in the face of clarion voices of division, but it must be the precursor to bold, urgent and transformational change for the benefit of all people and our planet.”

The Sibiu Summit was the official culmination of discussions around the Future of Europe, and was presented as a reason to celebrate a more united, stronger and more democratic EU. EU heads of state and government discussed the future of Europe, the EU’s next five-year priorities and long-term climate goals.  


Bold action for a sustainable Europe

With three-quarters of Europeans believing that either their national system or the European system (or both) is broken, and sustainability identified in European citizen consultations as one of the top priorities - citizens needed to see bold action for a different more sustainable Europe.

Friends of the Earth Europe demands a future for Europe in which sustainability and justice sit firmly at the heart of the European project – with action on a full and just transition off fossil fuels, protection of democracy and space for civil society, a drastic reform of trade policies without privileges for investors (ISDS), and maximum protection for biodiversity. Civil society groups also call on heads of Member States to propose candidates for the new Commission that have a strong track record on sustainability issues.


Climate silence 

On climate action, EU leaders are still divided and failed to reach agreement on whether to embrace a target of cutting emissions to zero by 2050. But even if agreed, this timeline is too slow for Europe to do its fair share to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. 

Jagoda Munic said:

As a rich continent largely responsible for causing carbon pollution, Europe has a duty to act boldly and urgently to avert climate breakdown - the suggestion to wait until 2050 to go ‘net zero’ is simply too late for Europe to stop burning fossil fuels. Early transformational action now to halt investments in fossil fuels, institute massive energy savings, move to 100% renewable energy by 2030 is what really counts to make long term promises meaningful.”