EU lagging behind on climate, gender equality goals

European Commissioner Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager talks during a video press conference at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, June 17, 2020. (Kenzo Tribouillard, Pool Photo via AP)
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The European Union’s statistical office says the 27-nation bloc is lagging behind its goals in the fight against climate change and to promote gender equality.

In a report published Monday assessing the EU’s progress in reaching the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, Eurostat noted improvement in reducing poverty and improving health over the past five years of data.

But only slow progress, or no overall progress at all, was achieved toward environmental objectives. As for gender equality, the report noted that the EU has “moved away” from the goals.

The 2030 agenda for sustainable development, which contains 17 goals, was adopted in 2015 at the U.N. General Assembly.

“Progress towards the EU’s climate and energy targets has in part stalled, as has the shift towards a circular economy,” Eurostat said. “Pressures on ecosystems and biodiversity have therefore been increasing in some areas.”

Commenting on the data during a press conference, European Commissioner for economy Paolo Gentiloni pointed to efforts to reduce the gender pay gap, but the report noted a widening gap between men and women in acquiring education and on the labor market. -Gentiloni expressed concerns that the situation could worsen because of the lockdown measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus. The stringent measures have plunged the EU into a recession of colossal proportions.

“We’ll have to look at the consequences of the months behind us,” he said. “We should (pay) particular attention to gender gap in our activity.”

Looking at the political side of inequalities, Gentiloni took satisfaction in the increase in female lawmakers in national parliaments but insisted “there is still a long way to go.”

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who was elected last year, has made a priority of the fight against climate change. She also insists that gender equality is a key element of economic growth and has set up a gender-equal team of commissioners in charge of implementing her policies.

As part of her Green Deal project aiming at making Europe the world’s first carbon-neutral continent by 2050, von der Leyen also wants to dedicate a quarter of the EU’s budget to tackling climate change.

“Yes, we took very good decisions. Yes, we are committed. Yes, we are at the forefront on the goals for 2020 and 2030, but we still have the consequences of climate change in place,” Gentiloni said. “That’s why the Green Deal is even more important.”

According to the Eurostat report, the bloc’s CO2 emissions were reduced by 2.7 percent from 2013 to 2018 but temperatures kept rising. The period from 2009 to 2018 was the hottest on record in Europe with an average temperature deviation of 1.6 to 1.7 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.