EU needs to show leadership and clear ambition at COP26, say MEPs

Glasgow climate conference must be a turning point in ‘concrete emission reduction’, argues Jytte Guteland, as EP’s 15-strong delegation prepares for participation in next week’s final negotiation phase
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By Andreas Rogal

Andreas Rogal is a senior journalist at the Parliament Magazine

01 Nov 2021

The world’s desperate attempts to avert a climate catastrophe - and, in particular, what global leaders are prepared to contribute to them - will come into focus in Glasgow over the next two weeks, at the COP26 climate conference. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will attend on behalf of the EU, visiting Glasgow on Monday and Tuesday.

At a press conference in Brussels on Thursday, von der Leyen called the weekend’s g20 climate discussions in Rome a “pace maker” moment for Glasgow, which will need to show leadership from the twenty most advanced economies in the world, responsible for 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

This leadership will have to manifest itself mainly by picking up the lagging climate finance pledge made in 2009, to deliver, by 2020, $100bn annually to the least developed and most vulnerable countries to help with adaptation to and mitigation of climate change effects.

According to the latest estimates, the actual figure raised is at least ten percent below target.

There are two other main tasks for COP26: to agree on commitments to cut emissions enough for the 2015 Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5C which at the moment looks out of reach, and to finalise the agreement’s implementation rulebook.

These concern common timeframes for measuring progress, and voluntary cooperation like wider emission trading schemes.

"The European Parliament adopted its COP26 position at the last plenary, and will send an official delegation of fifteen members from all political groups, led by the chair of the Environment Committee (ENVI), Pascal Canfin (FR, Renew). The delegation will participate in the final negotiation phase between 8 and 12 November"

The European Parliament adopted its COP26 position at the last plenary, and will send an official delegation of fifteen members from all political groups, led by the chair of the Environment Committee (ENVI), Pascal Canfin (FR, Renew). The delegation will participate in the final negotiation phase between 8 and 12 November.

The Renew Group’s other delegate, Nils Torvalds, commented to the Parliament Magazine that "for reaching the outcome the entire world needs from the climate conference in Glasgow, the EU has to be ready to show leadership with clear ambitions”.

He continued: “With the resolution, which the European Parliament voted on last week in plenary, we have sent the message that we are up to the task."

Among Parliament’s most important objectives is to convince the conference that all direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies should be phased out as soon as possible.

Greens/EFA Group lead delegate Bas Eickhout stated in a press release after the adoption of the EP resolution that the COP26 “needs to be about immediate action”.

“To stay in line with the climate goals, the exploration and development of new oil and gas fields has to stop now. Yet, since the Paris Agreement, fossil financing has only grown,” he argued.

The ENVI vice-chair added that “even after vowing to phase-out fossil subsidies, G20 members still provide at least three times as much international public finance for fossil fuels as for clean energy. This has to stop. It is high time that we put our money where our mouth is.”

"Even after vowing to phase-out fossil subsidies, G20 members still provide at least three times as much international public finance for fossil fuels as for clean energy. This has to stop. It is high time that we put our money where our mouth is” Greens/EFA Group COP 26 lead delegate Bas Eickhout MEP

For the EPP Group, delegation leader Lídia Pereira underlined the need to bring other big economies to follow where the EU is now leading with its Green Deal and Climate Act:

“No-one should lag behind. We want other countries such as China, the world's second largest economy, to set more ambitious emissions reduction goals and reduce its dependency on coal”. The Portuguese MEP concluded: “Europe is moving from words to actions, we want everyone else to do the same".

S&D Group delegate and ENVI coordinator Jytte Guteland, in her post-resolution press statement, represented her Group’s hopes that, this time, things will happen: “After years of obstacles and setbacks, we can eventually be optimistic in our struggle to honour the Paris Agreement.”

The Swedish Social Democrat concluded, with China pledging climate neutrality by 2060, and a new, “progressive” president in the White House “the COP26 in Glasgow must be a turning point not just in words but also in concrete emission reduction”.

One of the EU’s COP26 initiatives von der Leyen announced on Thursday was the launch, together with US President Biden, of a Global Methane Pledge: “Under this Pledge, we commit to reducing methane emissions by at least 30 percent by 2030”.

Von der Leyen explained that “if you look at the greenhouse gas emissions, methane is the lowest-hanging fruit”.

Perhaps her aides had studied the post-resolution press release by the Renew Group’s Martin Hojsik who wrote:

“We want the low hanging fruits of climate protection to be picked now, or they will rot the whole harvest. Methane is such low hanging fruit”.

The Slovak liberal explained that “reducing methane is a sure way to slow down a global warming within our lifetime. The world is moving to mitigate methane and the EU has to be the mover, not an observer.”

The EPP’s ITRE coordinator Christian Ehler, however, highlighted an area crucial to the green transition where the EU still has to catch up with its transatlantic partner.

He told the Parliament Magazine that “just this summer, the US Senate proposed to invest $250bn in the next five years under the US Innovation and Competition Act”.

The German Christian Democrat concluded that “no matter how good the Digital Market Act, the Digital Services Act or the Fit for 55 Package end up being, our regulation cannot compete with such investments”.

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