COP23: Despite US withdrawal, Paris agreement is alive and well

Written by Gilles Pargneaux on 6 November 2017 in Opinion
Opinion

Now that the US has withdrawn from the Paris agreement, it’s up to the EU to step up and be the climate leader the world needs, writes Gilles Pargneaux.

Gilles Pargneaux | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual


The Paris agreement is irreversible and non-negotiable. This is the message that Parliament has sent to US President Donald Trump through our resolution on COP23. The US withdrawal from the Paris agreement galvanised, rather than weakened, the other 194 COP21 signatories.

Since 1 June, heads of state around the world have continued to reaffi¬rm their commitment avoiding a global temperature rise of between 2.4 and 6.6 degrees by 2050.

The Paris agreement is alive and well, even though American isolationism has led to the formation of new alliances within the climate arena and the emergence of new leadership.


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The EU accounts for 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. This, I believe, should make it responsible for leading the fight against climate change. Europe must now lead the way by defining the measures needed at international level to limit global warming to 2.0, perhaps even 1.5, degrees, below pre-industrial temperatures. 

Parliament has a key role to play in realising the COP21 commitments. Over the coming months, we will vote on a number of legislative proposals to encourage the transition to a low-carbon economy.

As I often said during the months I spent preparing for COP21, while climate change is the fight of the century, it’s also the opportunity of the century. Energy is clearly one of the key sectors to make an economic paradigm shift happen. The circular economy will create up to two million jobs by 2030. 

The legislative proposals that Parliament will soon adopt will allow us to make the most of primary resources, products and waste, facilitating energy savings and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

An increase in energy efficiency will result in long-term savings, through the use of renewable energy. For example, energy savings in terms of electricity will lower costs by €100bn annually by 2020 in Europe, or €465 per household. This will also help tackle energy poverty, which currently affects 11 per cent of European citizens. 

Abolishing fossil fuel subsidies will allow for the development of renewables. According to the IMF, every year around the world, governments spend €4740bn in supporting fossil fuels - that’s about €10m per minute. This is an economic aberration.

Removing these subsidies would increase tax revenue and decrease healthcare costs and greenhouse gas emissions while improving the competitiveness of renewables.

Developing renewables in Europe means accelerating the energy transition. By 2020, we will have surpassed the 20 per cent renewables in our energy mix target. In 2014, renewables already accounted for 15.3 per cent of the EU’s energy consumption. 

We must intensify our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transport and agricultural sectors to reach our 2020 and 2030 targets. 

By setting a minimum price for each tonne of carbon, we could reduce market volatility and improve its predictability, encouraging low-carbon investments. This is currently being looked at in the ETS negotiations between Parliament and Council. 

It’s also crucial to recognise the status of climate refugees. The UN estimates that by 2050, 250 million people will have been forced out of their homes for environmental reasons. This question can no longer be ignored.

Over the coming months, more than ever, the EU will have to demonstrate that it is the world leader in the fight against climate change by taking up all of these challenges. We must all play our part.

 

About the author

Gilles Pargneaux (S&D, FR) is a Vice-Chair of Parliament’s environment, public health and food safety committee

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