International cooperation crucial to fighting climate change

EU institutions, member states and industry have been heavily involved in projects aimed at halting the devastating effects of climate change, writes Carlos Moedas.

By Carlos Moedas

08 Dec 2015

If countries reach a new climate deal at next month's COP21 conference in Paris, global science will have informed a historical political decision of vital importance to the future of both humanity and our planet.

In the run up to the conference, the EU has focused on steering negotiations while supporting scientific efforts to better understand the nature of climate change, as well as the magnitude of its impact and the scale of mitigation action necessary to limit the global mean temperature rise below two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.

According to the UK's Met Office, 2015 will be the first year to reach more than a one degree Celsius increase in global temperatures. Remaining on track to keep below a two degree increase will require nothing less than a complete transformation of Europe's economy through the rapid decarbonisation of our energy and transport systems. 


From domestic dwellings to major industry, an enormous shift in our consumption and production behaviour will be absolutely necessary to mitigate climate change with any real effect.

But as great as this challenge is, so are the opportunities for European leadership, competitiveness, employment and sustainable economic growth.

Over the last two years alone, the Commission has contributed €8.8bn in support of energy research, cleaner transport, climate action, resource efficiency, the bioeconomy and key enabling technologies through Horizon 2020. 

As climate change impacts on many areas of research and innovation, we have committed to spend at least 35 per cent of Horizon 2020's nearly €80bn total budget on climate-related objectives. And the European institutions are not alone in their efforts.

EU member states and innovation-focused companies are already working together to accelerate the development and deployment of low-carbon technologies through the European strategic energy technology plan (SET-plan). 

Thanks to the SET-plan, the total annual R&D investment in priority technologies - such as advanced biofuels - more than doubled across the EU between 2007 and 2011 (from €2.8bn to €7.1bn), with two thirds of that investment coming from industry alone.

And in international cooperation, the EU is just one of the continental regions focusing on research and innovation in the Arctic, where the effects of global warming are already acute. 

Funding projects such as ICE-ARC, directly assessing the social and economic impact of Arctic sea-ice loss and improving the scientific basis for international and EU policies on the protection of the Arctic's marine environment and resources.

EU-funded research projects are of course also contributing greatly to the intergovernmental panel on climate change's (IPCC) series of assessment reports. This includes the latest fifth assessment report, which provides the scientific basis for the forthcoming talks in Paris.

The only way we can halt the devastating effects of climate change is through international research and innovation cooperation. This is the case I will make at the COP21 conference in Paris next month and I believe the European Union is in a unique position to lead the way.