2015 was indeed an apocalyptic year for environmental policy, in the midst of an undoubtedly tense global environment. Europe’s economic prospects still look gloomy and unemployment soars, particularly among the young. An unprecedented humanitarian crisis unfolds with millions of refugees seeking a safe new home and thousands drowning in the seas of Europe. The deadly terrorist attacks in Paris suddenly shifted political attention towards security matters. Yet, in the midst of this rather depressing setting, public concern about the state of the planet steadily grows to become a dynamic movement demanding equitable solutions to the unfolding environmental crisis.
The massive response of over 500,000 Europeans to the urgent call of environmental organisations in defense of the EU’s Habitats and Birds Directives was indeed unprecedented and a landmark in the history of European Commission consultations. Their eyes fixed on Paris, hundreds of thousands in 175 countries around the globe marched for a clear and binding agreement that will keep global warming below +2o C. In Paris, the final agreement reached at the climate COP21 was a clear signal that scientific evidence on the detrimental impacts of climate change is indeed alarming, but also that the people’s voices are heard.
The 2015 take-home message for the planet’s leaders is that when politicians fail, people have the power. The message for the global environmental movement is that the solution to the planet’s crisis is political and needs to aim for a world of social and environmental justice, transparent policy-making and ecologically sustainable economies.
A tense but also inspiring 2015 is now behind us. Best wishes for an environmentally and socially just 2016.