EU 'not waiting to act' on climate deal

Written by Jos Delbeke on 5 December 2014 in Feature

The EU is doing its part to fight climate change and to assist countries most in need, writes Jos Delbeke.

This has been an important year in seeing momentum steadily build for strong global action on climate change. The UN climate summit in September saw hundreds of thousands of people across the globe march in support of more action, while countries, companies, investors and individuals made concrete climate commitments.

As we head to Lima for the UN climate change conference in December, we must channel this motivation into driving forward an ambitious legally-binding global climate deal to be adopted in Paris next year.

For the EU, success in Paris means a new treaty with commitments that cuts greenhouse gases and puts the world on a path to a more stable climate. The treaty will also need a set of rules that ensures countries follow through on their commitments. Finally, this new treaty needs to be built to last, by requiring countries to regularly review and strengthen their commitments.

"The climate is changing at an alarming pace and science tells us that we do not have the luxury of time"

The first step of Lima is to ensure delivery of these commitments and the EU has done its homework. In October, EU leaders agreed our 2030 climate and energy targets including a binding domestic greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of at least 40 per cent by 2030. This will be our contribution to the global agreement. It is fully in line with scientific evidence and with what the EU will need to contribute in the longer term to keep global warming below two degrees centigrade.

The US and China have also announced targets. This is positive news and will bring more than half of the world's current emissions under some form of target. However, we need everyone on board to prevent dangerous climate change and the new deal must reflect the economic and geopolitical realities of the world today. And to be ready for Paris, we need all countries to come forward as early as possible in 2015.

The second step is to understand what these contributions actually mean in relation to countries' emissions and how far they measure up against the latest scientific research in advance of Paris. That is why it is essential that the Lima conference agrees on the information and processes required in ensuring contributions to the new agreement are clear, transparent and comparable. The possibility to discuss the different contributions will increase international partners’ confidence in the proposed commitments. It will also allow us to jointly assess if they are individually fair and collectively ambitious enough to meet our below two degrees centigrade objective.

Finally, in Lima we need to frame the rest of the package necessary for a global, robust and ambitious deal to be agreed in Paris in 2015. This will include assurances to the poorest and most vulnerable countries that the EU and a growing number of countries will be in a position to provide support in helping them develop in a low carbon, climate friendly way.

"In Lima we need to frame the rest of the package necessary for a global, robust and ambitious deal to be agreed in Paris in 2015"

The EU is ready to do its part to fight climate change and to assist those countries most in need. Climate finance will play an important part in this. The EU remains the world's leading contributor of official development assistance and climate financing. In 2013, the EU and its member states collectively provided €9.6bn to help developing countries tackle climate change. The EU's central budget, managed by the European commission, will see around €14bn of public climate finance provided to partners outside the EU in the period up to 2020. This will be on top of what the member states will deliver concurrently. The EU is leading by example but all partners need to be ready to play their part too. The climate is changing at an alarming pace and science tells us that we do not have the luxury of time. In its fifth assessment report, the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) tells us that concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are at a level unseen in the last 800,000 years. The impact of climate change is being felt on every continent and the longer we delay taking action, the greater the risks we face and the more costly it will become to adapt to the changes.

The good news is that the below two degrees centigrade target is still within reach, but only if the world takes urgent action. The EU is not waiting to act. Translating the 2030 climate and energy framework into concrete action in the coming months and years will allow the EU to reap the full benefits of the transition to a low-carbon economy - essential for creating new jobs and sustainable growth. Others can reap these benefits too. With just 12 months to go before the Paris meeting, there is no time to lose. As the penultimate conference, expectations for Lima are high. The hard work starts here.


About the author

Jos Delbeke is director general of the European commission's DG climate action


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