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Climate change is one of the biggest geopolitical challenges the world is facing today, even as it continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and its public health and economic fallout.

One may question the urgency of stronger climate action amid a pandemic that has wreaked havoc on every aspect of our lives. We say climate action is now more relevant than ever; the science is unquestionable — we must cut our carbon footprint and invest in green technologies for our future prosperity.

While much of the world's activity came to a standstill during the pandemic lockdowns, the planet continued to get perilously hotter. We experience it all around us, from the fires burning through Oregon and Australia and typhoons in Asia to the Mont Blanc glacier collapse in Italy and the crops destroyed in Romania by the most severe drought in decades.

As much as COVID-19 is a large-scale human tragedy, no doubt science tells us this is just a warning compared to the existential risks global warming poses to our civilization in the years and decades to come. There will be no vaccine against climate change and its devastating impacts.

Our mission in the European Union is to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. At their last European Council meeting on Dec. 11, EU leaders unanimously agreed to set a 2030 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 per cent compared to 1990 levels.

This will provide certainty for our businesses, industries and citizens. It will further fast-track the decrease in the costs of low-carbon technologies. For example, the cost of solar photovoltaics dropped by 82 per cent between 2010 and 2019. Reaching this target will even help us save €100 billion in the next decade and up to €3 trillion by 2050. In Europe and around the world, many businesses and individuals are shifting to clean and green technologies.

The EU Green Deal is our blueprint in this green transformation. In the year since it was adopted, the Green Deal has become the thread that runs through all our policies — from energy to industry, farming and food. And in our “Next Generation EU” recovery package and long-term budget, approved Dec. 11, more than half a trillion euros will address climate change and mitigate its effects.

Yes, the 2030 target is ambitious, but achievable. Meeting this unprecedented target would put the EU firmly on track to accomplishing climate neutrality by 2050 and our obligations under the Paris Agreement. And if other countries follow suit, the world will be able to keep warming below 1.5 C.

Flattening the emissions curve can only be achieved through collective global action.

“Momentum is building on climate action, as net-zero emission is becoming the new normal mid-century outlook for countries with significantly different historical and geographical circumstances,” writes @EUAmbCanada. #EU #Canada #COP26 #COVID19

The recent Climate Ambition Summit — which marked the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement — offered encouraging signs that we are moving in the right direction, as countries made new commitments towards fulfilling the Paris Agreement promise.

For years, Canada and the EU have been leading the charge on climate action. At their virtual meeting in October, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen vowed to continue this work and committed to post-COVID green recoveries. We welcome Canada’s pledge to upgrade its 2030 nationally determined contribution ahead of COP26 and its recent announcement of a new law on climate neutrality.

Canada and the EU have been also spearheading climate action efforts in various international fora, including at the Ministerial on Climate Action (MoCA), through G7 and G20 initiatives, in addition to our regular bilateral high-level dialogues on climate, energy and the environment.

Momentum is building on climate action, as net-zero emission is becoming the new normal mid-century outlook for countries with significantly different historical and geographical circumstances. This, along with international community pledges of $100 billion in climate financing to developing countries, must be the outcome of the climate negotiations at COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021.

A new vision of the world is emerging post-COVID, one in which climate neutrality is not only a necessity, but also the driver of new economic opportunities. The choices we make today will determine our future tomorrow.

Christian Burgsmüller is the chargé d’affaires and deputy head of the delegation of the European Union to Canada.