Written by Gregor Erbach
All eyes on Paris
The world will be looking to Paris at the end of November, where the nations of the world aim to conclude a new agreement on climate change that would catalyse worldwide action towards a low-carbon economy. The 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – COP 21 for short – is expected to set the rules for international action on climate change for the foreseeable future. Our in-depth analysis Negotiating a new UN climate agreement highlights the issues which are at stake.
Leading role of the EU
The EU is once again at the forefront. Following guidance from the European Council, the EU institutions have expressed support for an EU approach to COP 21 centred round a 40% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, but insisted on different priorities. The European Parliament would like to raise the ambition: a global phase-out of fossil fuels around 2050 and a reinvigoration of EU climate policies.
Instead of waiting for the outcome of COP 21, the EU is already preparing itself for the post-2020 period: In July 2015, the Commission published an energy summer package, which includes legislative proposals to implement the EU’s climate ambitions: new rules for energy efficiency labelling and a reform of the emissions trading system. But has the system been effective? The European Parliament’s implementation appraisal of the EU Emissions Trading System gives a mixed picture.
For more background information, consult our keysource “Are we ready for the 2015 Conference in Paris?“. This is a global negotiation, so what else is at stake?
Developments in international climate policy
Other interesting developments in the summer include a G7 accord to phase out fossil fuels, and Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change. Despite internal political disagreements, the US aspires to international leadership in climate policy, and might find some common ground with the EU. There is a tremendous pressure for a deal to be done. More on the topic to be published in the following days.
Are European efforts successful?
Europe is making strong efforts to reduce its emission of greenhouse gases, and it is successful. EU’s emissions have fallen by 23% since 1990. This reduction already goes beyond the target of 20% for 2020, and puts the EU right on track for achieving its target for 2030: a 40% reduction in emissions.
But what about the rest of the world?
Unfortunately, emissions in other parts of the world keep rising strongly, especially in developing countries. After decades of double-digit economic growth, China is now the largest emitter of greenhouse gases; it is responsible for a quarter of global emissions, more than the EU and the United States combined!
Have 20 years of climate negotiations achieved anything?
As early as 1992, the world’s nations concluded an agreement with the aim to prevent dangerous global warming: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Five years later, they adopted the Kyoto Protocol – an agreement that committed the developed countries to reducing their emissions. However, not all countries were enthusiastic to implement the Protocol: the US refused to ratify it, and Canada withdrew in 2011.
Developing countries had no formal commitments under the Kyoto protocol. And their emissions grew rapidly as they got wealthier and their economies expanded.
Nowadays, it is clear that the developed countries alone cannot prevent dangerous climate change – strong action from the developing countries is needed as well. That’s why the UN climate change conference in Durban 2011 decided to negotiate a new climate agreement that should apply to all countries. The new agreement should be adopted in 2015, and enter into force in 2020.
The EU will be represented in Paris by the Council Presidency and the Commissioner for Climate and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete. A delegation of the European Parliament will also take part, led by the chair of the Environment Committee, Giovanni La Via.