In depth

Fossil Free Europe We know there is more coal, oil and gas in known reserves around the world than we can possibly afford to burn if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. Continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels is devastating the planet and livelihoods, hitting the poorest hardest.

The climate crisis

The scale of the climate challenge facing humanity cannot be underestimated. The world over, communities are already feeling the impacts of man-made climate change. Particularly in countries in The South. But increasingly, here in Europe too.

It can be seen in the form of rising sea levels, ocean acidification, melting glaciers, and increasingly severe and regular heatwaves, floods, hurricanes and droughts. In 50 years, the number of extreme weather events has quadrupled. The impacts of climate change are happening faster and are already hitting communities harder than anticipated.

The results include changes to agricultural patterns, threats to livelihoods, and conflicts over land, water and other resources.

In Europe the impacts of our addiction to fossil fuels can already be observed in the frequency of extreme weather, the strength and regularity of heat waves, disappearing biodiversity, and the need for new flood defences to protect low lying countries.

International climate change protests in Bonn, Germany

Planetary emergency

Climate change is a planetary emergency, and it is contributing to increasing social inequality within and between countries.

Our governments are failing to deliver the levels of action needed to address this. As things stand, Europe still bases most of its energy supply on dirty and dangerous sources. Governments are leaving their fossil-fuel addictions unchecked – locking in fossil fuel dependency by fracking for gas, importing fracked oil and gas from the US and tar sands from Canada, and expanding drilling into the Arctic. Big oil and gas companies are peddling gas as a mythical transition fuel, and governments are buying it, building new unnecessary fossil fuel infrastructure like pipelines and terminals.

The world is on track to global warming in excess of 3˚C, yet the commitments made by political leaders under the Paris Agreement fall far short of what is needed to effectively protect vulnerable and poor people across the world. The 40% emissions cut by 2030 proposed by the European Union (EU) is nowhere near Europe's fair share to keep climate change in line with a maximum average temperature rise of 1.5˚C.

But, it doesn't have to be this way. Imagine a world where the energy you use is produced and owned by your community, using the wind, the sun and other truly renewable sources. Where you live in a home that is warm and easy-to-heat, with energy-efficient appliances that are cheap to run, and the air you breathe is clean. A world where coal, oil and gas stays where it is in the ground.

This safe and clean Europe, free from fossil fuels, is possible, and it's happening now. In communities across Europe, people are already developing community power projects, taking control of their energy sources or joining together to make their homes energy efficient.

The movement towards a fossil free Europe is inevitable and cannot be stopped

The phase-out of fossil fuels must happen without false solutions like nuclear power, biofuels, geo-engineering, emission trading schemes or large-scale biomass, and without new trade deals that restrict how we manage our own energy use. Real solutions to climate change are available.

Solutions such as active community and citizen engagement in owning and producing renewable energy – "community energy"– need to play an increasingly central role in the energy mix.

The full potential for smarter energy use needs to be realised, both in our homes and in industry. We need to ensure that the legal and financial barriers that stop this happening are removed. And citizens need to be engaged in shaping the way forward through democratic processes.

Friends of the Earth Europe is taking action to change the current unjust and unsustainable economic system and bring about a safe and clean Europe. We are fighting fossil fuel developments in individual countries from national to local level, and putting people at the centre of the energy transformation. We have the renewable and safe energy solutions we need to deliver a just transition to a 100% renewable, no nuclear, super energy-efficient, zero-fossil-fuel Europe.

We work in solidarity with communities affected by climate change. We mobilise citizens who are building the solutions and challenge policy-makers, institutions and corporations to achieve climate justice.

The need for rapidly escalated action is urgent. But if we secure a just and quick transformation we can avoid the worst effects of climate change and a brighter future for us all.

Friends of the Earth is campaigning to:

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