EU seeks alliance with U.S. on local weather change, tech guidelines

BERLIN (Reuters) – Europe and the United States should unite in the fight against climate change and agree on a new framework for the digital market that will limit the power of big tech companies, said Ursula von der Leyen, executive director of the European Union.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, will hold a press conference on February 17, 2021 at the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. Aris Oikonomou / Pool via REUTERS

“I am certain that a joint transatlantic commitment to a net zero emissions path by 2050 would make climate neutrality a new global benchmark,” said the President of the European Commission in a speech at the virtual Munich security conference on Friday.

“Together we could create a global set of rules for the digital economy: a set of rules based on our values, human rights and pluralism, inclusion and the protection of privacy.”

The EU has pledged to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, while President Joe Biden has pledged the United States to become a “net-zero economy” by 2050.

Scientists say the world must reach net zero emissions by 2050 in order to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial times and avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

The hope is that a transatlantic alliance could help convince major emitters who have not yet committed to this timetable – including China, which is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2060, and India.

“The United States is our natural partner for global leadership on climate change,” said von der Leyen.

She described the January 6 storm on the US Capitol as a turning point in the discussion about the impact of social media on democracies.

“Of course, the imposition of democratic limits on the uncontrolled power of large technology companies alone will not stop political violence,” said von der Leyen. “But it’s an important step.”

She referred to a draft rulebook unveiled in December that aims to contain technology companies that control the data and online platforms that thousands of businesses and millions of Europeans rely on for work and social interactions.

They show the European Commission’s frustration with its antitrust proceedings against the technology giants, particularly Google from Alphabet Inc., which critics say did not address the issue.

But they also run the risk of sparking tensions with Washington already upset by Brussels’ attempts to tax US tech firms more heavily.

Von der Leyen said Facebook’s decision on Thursday to suspend a news blackout in response to an upcoming Australian law requiring Google and Google to share news revenue underscored the importance of a global approach to dealing with tech giants.

Additional coverage from Foo Yun Chee; Adaptation by Robin Emmott and Nick Macfie; Adaptation by Jonathan Oatis

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