Europeans are worried. In recent weeks, devastating winds and floods throughout Western Europe caused trauma to their victims, raising further concern about extreme weather events, but it’s the big picture that alarms the population at large: in a future defined by our success or failure to tackle climate change, are today’s leaders ready to act?

Nine in ten European citizens now consider climate change a ‘serious problem’, a Eurobarometer poll revealed this month.

This week, European heads of state have an opportunity to address their concerns when they meet to discuss a package of new climate related measures and targets for 2030.

It is one of the first in a delicate sequence of international events and summits over the next two years, concluding with a major conference in Paris, in December 2015.

What happens in Brussels this week could have life-or-death repercussions for millions of people now and billions more in the future. Climate change is a slow, grinding crisis but urgent action is needed to defuse it.

The EU has often been the driver of the world’s ambition - morally, politically, economically - in tackling climate change. There have been setbacks, but its overall record is a model to others on the world stage.

Its leadership has created the space for other blocs, such as the world’s least developed countries, to make themselves heard. And this week, Europe cannot falter.

The targets decided now will set the terms for further negotiations. Europe must seize the opportunity to act now and create momentum towards a robust, universal, fair and legally binding agreement in Paris in next year.

The implications of climate change are vast and complex, but two things are clear.

If the EU agrees a package this week, it will have a chance to lead discussions at a major summit convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York this September. And if Europe does not lead, who will?

The signals are that the other great powers may not be ready to speak out. This risks leaving many of the more vulnerable - and more outspoken - small islands, least developed and Latin American countries without an ally.

And the target itself should be ambitious enough to be meaningful. The European Commission’s current proposal of a 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 on 1990 levels is not enough to guarantee Europe’s status as a leader in climate negotiations - or to meet its own objective of reducing its carbon emissions by 95 per cent in 2050.

With clear, strong policy signals and targets, European businesses can boost their competitiveness. The United States and China are also making leaps and bounds in adapting their economies to meet climate targets, and Europe is losing ground.

Those two countries now lead the world in wind power capacity, and are catching up with Germany and Italy, the world leaders in solar energy. European businesses must be given the conditions to compete or may lose their edge completely.

We aren’t na├»ve. We know it is complicated to negotiate an agreement among 28 countries. But as Elders, we believe leaders’ decisions must be accountable to moral imperatives. Addressing climate change is also a matter of justice.

If we are to be true to our commitment to human rights, then rich nations owe a fair and honest deal to the world’s most vulnerable regions. The people on climate change’s frontline have often done the least to cause it.