European environment ministers have an opportunity tomorrow to lend real weight to the push for an ambitious Paris agreement to limit global warming. The 28 member countries, from forward-looking Germany and France to habitual blockers Poland and Hungary, are meeting in Brussels to hammer out a common EU position for the international climate summit this December. Observers have highlighted a few key elements in the draft agreement that will be crucial for shaping the talks and their aftermath: A decarbonisation goal – already supported by the G7 – would clearly signal the inevitable demise of fossil fuels and shift to 100 per cent renewables. And having countries review and hike up their ambitions every five years would open the door to climate action above and beyond the current pledges on the table. At the latest round of UN climate talks in Bonn, support for these key elements seemed to be growing among a number of governments. The EU could now build on this positive momentum by clearly endorsing and promoting them – together with other champions who are working hard to secure a strong Paris outcome.
— CAN EUROPE (@CANEurope) September 16, 2015
- In Paris, the world can decide to end the fossil fuel age and embrace the dawning renewable energy era. Governments are under pressure to speed up the global energy transition currently driven by workers, communities, businesses and investors in order to keep global warming well below 2DegC, and to build resilient communities free from poverty and inequality.
- All roads lead through Paris, not just to Paris. The pledges for emission cuts countries have made so far take us closer – but not all the way – to keeping global warming on the safe side of 2DegC – or better still, 1.5DegC. A Paris outcome with long-term goal to phase out fossil fuels completely and a requirement for countries to crank up their commitments every five years will ensure emissions keep dropping into the future.
- Pressure is mounting on the EU to champion the crucial elements of a strong Paris outcome and to lead by example. While generally regarded as a climate progressive, the EU is likely to overshoot its unambitious 2020 target of 20 per cent lower emissions. Experts argue that its Paris pledge of “at least 40 per cent” emissions cuts by 2030 can be strengthened. Cutting emissions at home faster while raising financial support for climate action abroad are in the EU’s best interest if an ambitious Paris agreement is desired.
On 18 September, EU Environment Ministers will meet in Brussels to adopt the EU position for the Paris climate summit in December. At the summit – known as ‘COP21’ – all governments are expected to agree and sign on to a new global climate agreement.
In the run-up to the summit, countries participating in the negotiations have agreed to set out their emissions reduction goals and actions – known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs. To date, over 60 countries, representing around 70 percent of global emissions, have submitted their pledges – including some of the world’s biggest emitters such as Canada, the EU, the US, China and many of the world’s most vulnerable nations, most recently the Marshall Islands and the Democratic Republic of Congo. But others, including India and Brazil still have to do so.
The pledges so far are a good step forward but alone are unlikely to keep global temperatures from overshooting the 2DegC danger threshold agreed by all governments, and the 1.5DegC demanded by vulnerable nations.
With commitments falling short of this overarching aim, the Paris agreement must contain enough bite to ensure climate ambition is ramped up over time. For example, support for a long term goal for the complete phase out of emissions – ideally by 2050 – would allow governments to signal the end of the fossil fuels era, while a mechanism to allow countries to review, renew and scale-up their national plans every-five years would give them a clear pathway towards this global decarbonisation target.
The EU itself is made up both of countries which are more ambitious (Germany, UK, France, Scandinavian countries) and those which have tried to block greater ambition (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic). If EU environment ministers agree a forward-looking position which contains language on five yearly increases in ambition and a long term goal on Friday 18 September, it will allow the EU’s negotiators to push for a strong international framework.
The EU also needs to come out with actions not just words on developed countries’ agreed climate financing for poorer nations. For example, by setting up an EU ETS International Climate Action Reserve and putting in place a Financial Transaction Tax with at least half of all funds benchmarked for international climate action. This would give a clear signal to developing countries in Paris that the EU is committed to continue to provide additional finance for climate needs in predictable and transparent ways.
There is just one more meeting of international diplomats scheduled before the COP21 conference begins on 30 November. It is in Bonn on the 19-23 October. The COP21 will last until 11 December.
EU environment council preview (EU Council)
Pope Francis (Flickr)
German Minister Hendricks (Flickr)
French Minister Royal (Flickr)
Podcast: The EU’s INDC: what it means and how to communicate it (The Tree)
INDCs: INDC Preparation Progress Worldwide (Climate Tracker)
Comment: The Guardian view on the Paris summit: outlook fair, but storms still possible
Article: The Elders urge world leaders to take bold and decisive action on climate in 2015 (The Elders)
Comment: Europe’s task: building the blocks for ‘beyond Paris’ (E3G)
Comment: The EU’s to do list before Paris COP21 (E3G)
- “EU Environment Ministers need to muster the courage and leadership to look beyond short-term electoral cycles and take lasting decisions for the common good. The EU needs to push for a long term decarbonisation goal with clear milestones, deliver on the much needed climate finance commitments, and ensure human rights are enshrined in the UN climate agreement.” – Bernd Nilles, Secretary General of CIDSE, international alliance of Catholic development agencies
- “The EU’s climate targets are currently not ambitious enough to avoid the worst consequences of climate change and have to be increased. The EU has to agree on a date for ending the use of fossil fuels, latest by 2050. Only a long term pathway to full decarbonisation will provide companies with the certainty needed to scale up investments in energy savings and renewable energy.” – Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network Europe
- “We are going to get an agreement and it will have all the major countries in it, which did not look likely a few years ago. It is not going to deliver 2C overnight, but it will put in place immediate action and reduce warming. […] Everybody has more to lose from climate change than from a low carbon economy,” – Nick Mabey, chief executive of E3G
- @minister To be credible on ambition for #Paris2015, EU must support raising ambition every 5 years
- @minister To be credible on meeting 2C obligation, EU ministers must endorse G7 declaration #Paris2015 #decarbonisation
- @minister To be credible on preventing dangerous climate change, EU must endorse G7 declaration #Paris2015 #decarbonisation
- @minister Without agreement to increase ambition every 5 years in #Paris2015, EU is giving cover to forces of low ambition
- @minister #Paris2015 needs to accelerate global decarbonisation. EU must endorse G7 statement and increasing ambition every 5 years
- @minister #COP21 must create global regime that is transparent, dynamic & durable. Need global 2050 goal + higher ambition every 5 years
- @minister To support most climate vulnerable countries, EU must agree to increase ambition every 5 years at #Paris2015 #COP21
- @minister A disorderly low carbon transition will hit the poor hardest. EU must support 2050 global goal & higher targets every 5 years
- @minister Next 15 years of investments determines our climate stability. New targets every 5 years avoids high carbon lock-in #COP21
Twitter handles for target ministries
- UK – @AmberRuddhr @deccgovuk
- France – @RoyalSegolene @Ecologienergie
- Germany @bmub
- Italy @minambienteIT @glgalletti
- Luxembourg @eu2015lu @CaroleDieschbourg
- Denmark @EvaKjerHansen @MFVMin
- Sweden @asaromson
- Netherlands – @MansveldWilma @Min_IenM
- Belgium @DepartementLNE
- Spain @magramagob
- Portugal @govpt
- DG Clima @MAC_europa @EUClimateAction