COP21: Agreement must be legally binding, much more ambitious

COP21 has the potential to be a success, as long as certain conditions are met, writes Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy.

By Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy

07 Dec 2015

Climate change is one of the most serious threats to our current way of life. Climate scientists have warned that we need to significantly cut down global emissions if we want to prevent further extreme weather and major distortions in food production and water management. Additionally, the instability caused by the impacts of climate change is an unpredictable driver of conflicts and mass migration globally.

Governments are currently meeting in Paris, with the ambition to adopt a new international climate agreement. For Parliament's ALDE group, five elements are crucial for the success of the conference.

First, all countries should be part of the Paris agreement. The 1997 Kyoto protocol currently covers less than 12 per cent of global emissions. Major economies such as the US, China and India have no obligations. This must change if we are to properly tackle climate change and secure a global approach for firms competing internationally.


We need more ambition. According to a recent UN assessment, the emission reduction pledges that were submitted before the conference could help limit global warming to 2.7 degrees Celsius. This is great progress compared to previous warnings that temperatures would rise by more than five degrees, but more action is needed to contain global warming within safe levels - including from Europe. The Paris deal must include a review mechanism in case the numbers don't add up.

The agreement should also be legally binding; binding rules will enable countries to hold each other accountable.

Climate finance is another crucial element. Last year, the EU provided over €14bn in financial support for climate action in developing countries. Additional financial commitments should be put forward for the future. The European Parliament has called for allowances from the EU's emissions trading system to be set aside for international climate finance.

Perhaps most importantly, the Paris agreement should include a long-term decarbonisation goal. A clear objective to 2050 will give direction to future climate measures. It will also send a clear signal to energy companies, banks and investors that we will leave the majority of fossil fuels in the ground. We have no other choice if we want to ensure freedom, safety and prosperity for the generations to come.

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