When our family and those we love are threatened, our natural instinct is to fight; to stand together in solidarity and face the challenge together. This is the approach we have taken to tackling climate change in the European Union.
And when I say family, I don't just mean the 500 million citizens of the European Union, the world's largest economic community. I mean our global circle of friends. Climate change is a generational challenge that is too great for one country or even a group of countries to deal with in isolation -- it's a defining test for the world community as a whole.
That's why we are lucky to have 196 families -- or Parties as they are known under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) -- to look to for support and to keep us on course when the going gets tough.
The European Union has been at the forefront of global efforts to tackle climate change over the last decades, and we continue to play our part in the critical year ahead. .
The UN Climate Summit on September 23 is an important milestone in the run up to a global climate change agreement to be agreed in Paris next year. It is a real opportunity for us to remember the magnitude of the challenge we face, and the huge effort that will be required to meet our target to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.
The world urgently needs an ambitious, comprehensive and binding global agreement, because despite current efforts to cut emissions around the world, the climate is getting worse.
A recent report by the World Meteorological Organization(WMO) showed that the global annual average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere grew at its fastest rate for nearly 30 years, reaching a record high of 396 parts per million (ppm) last year.
It is clear from the scientific findings of the IntergovernmentalPanel on Climate Change (IPCC), the WMO and others, that we do not have the luxury of time. At the same time, we already have the keys to change -- pricing carbon, decarbonizing our economies and creating jobs in the process, and assisting those countries and industries most in need. We know what to do. There is no excuse not to act.
The EU has successfully decoupled economic growth from rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Between 1990 and 2012,Europe's economy grew by 45 percent, while our GHG emissions decreased by 19 percent. So growth, jobs and climate protection can go hand in hand.
Of course, all countries face their own challenges and priorities,but when it comes to climate change there is no alternative solution to collective global action and multilateralism. To make a difference, this action needs to be inclusive -- and it must mirror today's economic and geopolitical realities.
To avoid a dangerous tipping point, global greenhouse gas emissions must stop growing and start falling by 2020 at the latest, and continue to fall to at least half of 1990 levels by the middle of this century. This is consistent with the latest findings of the IPCC. Furthermore, by cutting emissions strongly now, we can reduce the level of even costlier adaptations needed in the future.
Therefore, I hope that the UN Climate Summit will bring a renewed sense of urgency and clear view of the work and responsibilities ahead of us on the road to Paris.
We and our partners must be ready with our contributions in early 2015, as agreed, so that we have the necessary time to negotiate openly and transparently.
For the EU, this means adopting our new and ambitious climate and energy framework, including our greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for 2030. The European Commission I lead already set out an ambitious strategy earlier this year. We propose a 40 percent cut in domestic emissions in 2030, and a much higher share of renewables and energy savings. EU states are set to make a final decision on this in October.
In short: the European Union will be ready for a decisive global climate deal next year. And we expect others to step up to the challenge, too. In particular, we urge partners with the greatest responsibilities and capabilities to make the most ambitious contributions.
The Paris climate summit is just 15 months away. We must not lose time, to ensure it delivers the ambitious, comprehensive and legally binding agreement the world needs.
Climate change is a threat multiplier. It does not only affect our environment, it also hampers the global economy and development and hits the most vulnerable countries disproportionately. The longer we delay taking action, the greater the risks and the harder and more costly it will become to adapt to them. That is why we must act now.
This post is part of a month-long series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with a variety of events being held in September recognizing the threats posed by climate change. Those events include the UN's Climate Summit 2014 (to be held Sept. 23, 2014, at UN headquarters in New York) and Climate Week NYC (Sept. 22-28, 2014, throughout New York City). To see all the posts in the series, read here.