EU must speak with one voice to achieve climate goals

The lack of determination from some member states should not prevent the setting of more ambitious environmental targets, writes Bas Eickhout.

By Bas Eickhout

MEP Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA, NL) is Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

01 Dec 2014

Copenhagen 2009 has shown us what happens when you leave climate decisions entirely in the hands of member states. At the negotiating table it turned out that the EU was a cumbersome oaf that could just sit and listen. Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao reached a meaningless agreement while our European leaders were squabbling amongst themselves in a back room.

For several years things were starting to look better. Former commissioner Connie Hedegaard became responsible for climate action within the European commission and her positive influence was clearly noticeable over the years. She negotiated on behalf of the member states at the annual UN climate summits. Europe once again became a credible interlocutor by speaking with one voice instead of 28. Europe became the link between developing countries and major polluters China and the US.

Ideally the EU will continue this role towards Paris 2015. That is when we should get a post-2020 internationally binding climate agreement, which ensures the world’s temperature increase is below two degrees centigrade. In order to make COP21 a success at least three things have to be achieved before the negotiations in Paris begin.

"The green climate fund has to be taken seriously in order to get the world’s poorest countries on board"

First, the EU must keep talking with one ambitious voice.

Second, the green climate fund has to be taken seriously in order to get the world’s poorest countries on board.

Third, other nations have to be urged to make their contributions known in time. The European council has made a bad start on the first point, speaking with one voice. The negotiations within the European council for the 2030 energy targets showed that member states are taking back control.

The council conclusions set out the EU’s future climate policies in minute detail, whereby the commission is being surpassed as initiator of policy proposals.

And worse still, the 2030 conclusions state that future decisions within the climate and energy portfolio should be decided upon through unanimity.

That brings us back to where we were in Copenhagen. The least ambitious member state will use its veto whenever others try to establish a higher target.

On the second issue, the inclusion of developing countries, the EU should set a good example on 20 November during the Berlin pledging conference for the green climate fund. This fund has been created to provide developing countries with money for climate adaptation and mitigation.

For developing countries it is still unclear what amount of money there will be within the fund over the coming years. It is about time that our ministers of finance came forward with a joint EU-wide pledge.

Moreover, currently there is much uncertainty about how this money will be raised. The EU must come up with predictable, reliable and independent sources of finance. Lima is an important stop on the way to Paris 2015 with regard to the final issue, the collecting of early contributions.

The Lima conference is a perfect moment to urge other nations to come up with their post-2020 climate strategies. It is essential that all countries put forward quantifiable initial pledges before March next year. The proposed commitments can then be assessed collectively and in reference to the two degrees centigrade target. Negotiating will be easier when all the cards are on the table in Paris.

The EU’s climate tasks for the coming year must be a European Union that talks with one ambitious voice, has serious green climate fund pledges and ensures that all nations deliver their contributions in time.


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