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Climate and environmental change are an existential threat to Europe and to the world, where the atmosphere is warming, and the climate changing, with each passing year. As a result of our overconsumption, one million of the eight million species on the planet are at risk of becoming extinct, forests and oceans are being polluted and destroyed: More people are now seeking refuge as a result of climate change than war and conflict. Mankind’s livelihood depends on the climate on Earth. The decisions we make today will thus have major consequences for generations to come.

Climate change is our responsibility and we have an opportunity to make a difference, but we must  act urgently. There is thus a need to transform the European Union into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy, where tackling environmental challenges is its defining task.

The importance of climate change has already been put on the agenda through the Paris Agreement. The agreement, which was a major global breakthrough, states that global warming must be kept well below two degrees Celsius. This goal is set to avoid serious, lasting and irreversible climate change. The agreement further seeks to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees in 2100, compared to pre-industrial times. Failure to meet this goal may result in higher sea levels and an increase in extreme weather, leading to altered living conditions in affected areas, for example, reduced access to food and water and damage to infrastructure.

Although the Paris agreement is clear, it does not contain any specific requirements for emission reductions. It is therefore crucial that the European Union takes on a leading role in the fight against climate change and commits to drive progress towards a low-carbon economy to achieve the goals of the Paris agreement.

The EU has a collective ability to transform society and put it on a more sustainable path. However, to achieve this, the union faces a double challenge: the need to meet the market’s energy demands while at the same time reducing global emissions.

Energy is therefore one of the key elements of the issue. Solutions must ensure a steady and sustainable supply to businesses and households, with a focus on the diversification of energy sources, boosting renewable energy production, and the integration of the EU’s energy market, so that there is a free flow of energy across borders. Considering the possibilities that come with clean energy sources, the choices to be made around climate and environmental problems may become among the most defining of our time. There is a potential for a green shift in the world economy and this is something that Europe must cultivate further.

The development of our modern society must be grounded upon progress that contains solutions to the climate and environmental problems. Climate and environmental policy is about finding alternative solutions – not about making life more difficult. The ideal environmental policy should increase prosperity, stimulate economic growth and create more jobs.

The environment is already an increasingly important focus area for the EU. The union has taken on a leading role in the global fight against climate change with the “European Green Deal”. The plan proposes an ambitious goal of becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050; greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by at least 40 percent from 1990 levels and the EU will increase the proportion of energy production from renewable sources to at least 32 percent. The European Green Deal is a significant step in the right direction, but the ambition of the Green Deal will not be achieved by Europe acting alone. The drivers of climate change are global and are not limited by national borders. The EU has the opportunity to use its influence and financial resources to mobilise its neighbours and partners to join it on a sustainable path.

Conservatism is fundamentally oriented towards the generational perspective and the responsibility we have for the lives of future generations. Conservatives should therefore take a precautionary stance when it comes to the environment. Ideologically, it therefore makes sense for the conservatives to be the most staunchly environmental party. Managerial responsibility, the precautionary principle and the idea of change in order to preserve, are all basic ideological ideas that speak in favour of a strong environmental policy. Conservatism is poor in dogmas, but rich in values. The left should therefore not have a monopoly on the fight against climate change, when conservatives for years have stood up to preserve society, and deliver a better world to our children than the one we were given.