The role of weather and climate research in the achievement of a climate-neutral Europe

In the pursuit of a sustainable and climate-neutral Europe, the role of weather and climate research is paramount. As our planet faces the pressing challenges of climate change, the need for informed decision-making and innovative solutions becomes increasingly evident. With this thematic focus of the conference we invite to explore the critical role of weather and climate research in shaping policies, strategies, and technologies that will pave the way towards a climate-neutral Europe.

Carbon neutrality, what does it mean?

Carbon neutrality means having a balance between emitting carbon to the atmosphere and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere in carbon sinks (i.e., any system that absorbs more carbon than it emits). The main sinks are soils, forests, and oceans. Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then storing it is known as carbon sequestration. In order to achieve net zero emissions, all worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will have to be counterbalanced by carbon sequestration.

To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius – a threshold the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) suggests is safe – carbon neutrality by mid-21st century is essential. This target is also laid down in the Paris agreement signed by 195 countries, including the European Union (EU). Following this spirit, in December 2019 the European Commission presented the European Green Deal, its flagship plan that aims to make Europe climate neutral by 2050.

The Climate Law, the way to achieve the goal

Under the Green Deal, the EU aims to become the first continent to remove as many CO2 emissions as it produces by 2050. This goal became legally binding when the European Parliament and Council adopted the Climate Law in 2021. The EU’s interim emission reduction target for 2030 was also updated from 40% to at least 55% (compared to 1990 levels). The package of legislation is known as “Fit for 55” and includes among others: rules on emissions trading, national emissions reduction targets, carbon removal in the land use sector and transport emissions.

The role of weather and climate research community

The weather and climate research community must play an active role in this overwhelming objective, and several ways can be identified:

  • Climate-Resilient agriculture: Examining how research can enhance agricultural practices, increase food security, and reduce the carbon footprint of farming.
  • Forests and soils sinks. Forest and soils degradation (linked to more frequent and intense forest fires), excessive grazing, poor forest management, and biodiversity loss are the most challenging threats that affects the ability of soils and forests to capture carbon emissions. Research on the effects of present and future extreme events on these ecosystems, such as droughts, heat waves or storms, will be highly needed.
  • Smart cities and urban planning. Providing comprehensive Earth Observation data to create innovative solutions, such us, enhancing urban greenery monitoring systems.
  • Sustainable energy solutions. Exploring how weather and climate data support the transition to renewable energy sources and improve energy efficiency. Renewable energies demand reliable weather observations (as e.g., reanalysis), accurate forecasting and high-resolution climate projections to reduce uncertainty and enhance efficiency.
  • Public Engagement and Education. Promoting the dissemination of climate knowledge to the public and the importance of involving citizens in climate action.

The transition to a climate-neutral European society is both an urgent challenge and an opportunity to build a better future for all. Providing accurate data, information and solutions to achieve this objective is crucial, and climate research must respond.