COP26: The EU must show renewed leadership to the world, urges Pär Holmgren

Swedish Greens/EFA MEP says reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement are essential, but risk slipping from our grasp
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By Pär Holmgren

Pär Holmgren (SE, Greens/EFA) is a member of Parliament’s delegation to COP26

04 Nov 2021

It’s been six years since nearly 200 world leaders signed the Paris Agreement, putting the 1.5°C target in an internationally binding document. Since then, only one signatory is on track to deliver its share of actions required - The Gambia. Not even one percent of the Parties to the Convention have deemed it important enough to keep their promises. 

There is no time to waste. The 1.5 C target pathway can still theoretically be achieved, but not with the policies and targets currently in place. The agreement’s so-called ‘ratchet mechanism’ was designed to ensure that countries returned with updated ambitions every five years - i.e. by COP26.

The NDC (Nationally Determined Contributions) Synthesis Report shows that current NDCs will deliver a 16 percent increase in emissions by 2030 versus 2010, in contrast to the science that states that they have to be cut in half globally during this decade.

This takes us to nearly 3°C global warming by the end of this century, with continued warming to the beginning of the next. Therefore, all parties must increase their 2030 targets to keep 1.5°C within reach, with concrete plans and commitments.

Precedence should be given to ending the fossil fuel era. Phasing out coal, oil and gas energy sources, as well as incentives and subsidies for fossil fuel projects, must be a priority. Proper climate justice should also be ensured; with developed countries stepping up with finance to support the transition in developing countries.

There were promises made that climate finance would amount to some €100bn annually from 2020, but this remains distant. Additional finance is needed for loss and damage beyond adaptive capacity.

The rules for the implementation of the Paris Agreement must be finalised and ensure that these uphold environmental and social integrity in line with the 1.5°C limit. After six years, countries are still fighting over how to operationalise their commitments. One of the most important is to agree on the need for five-year timeframes. We can no longer afford only long-term goals.

“The EU conversation seems to have become complacent - the importance of promises that Parties deliver their ‘fair share’ of emission reductions have been lost from the conversation”

CO2 released into the atmosphere continues to have an impact on the climate for hundreds of years; each day we fail to do what the climate science requires of us, while the gap between science and policy widens. 

We need to get our own house in order. COP26 is a global conference, yet several countries - China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Australia - have refused to strengthen their ambitions, and urgently need to do so. However, European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen’s rhetoric on climate during her State of the Union address this year was disappointing.

The EU conversation seems to have become complacent - the importance of promises that Parties deliver their ‘fair share’ of emission reductions have been lost from the conversation. We’re not even close to the Paris Agreement.

It is time to reclaim the science, and finally turn the words of an agreement that was made long ago into actions. For the lives of the most affected, the climate emergency is already here; they cannot afford failure, and we cannot afford to fail. The EU has a responsibility to lead the way.