The EU must display its leadership through action on climate change

Ahead of December's COP 21 summit in Paris, it is key that Europe remains at the forefront of global climate policy, says Carole Dieschbourg.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

14 Jul 2015

As Luxembourg settles into its EU council presidency term, it's gearing up to face a number of challenges: ongoing transatlantic trade and investment partnership talks, tax transparency and, most relevant to environment minister Carole Dieschbourg, December's COP 21 climate change summit in Paris. At the conference, world leaders will gather to reach a new global agreement on tackling climate change.

Dieschbourg explains, "environment ministers approved on 6 March 2015 the EU's intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) for the new global climate agreement. As set out in the 2030 climate and energy framework, this is the binding target of at least a 40 per cent domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions." 

"The EU and its member states were the first major economy to communicate their INDC. Based on this commitment which includes all economic sectors, it is my aim to elaborate a strong mandate for the climate change summit in Paris." 


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"European ministers will finalise it at the environment council on 18 September and explain the EU vision of what the Paris agreement must contain. This vision will show the EU's leadership and commitment for Paris." 

"I am working closely with European climate action commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete and French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, who will be guiding the Paris conference."

"It is essential that in Paris, the EU speaks with one voice, has a coherent approach, and shows leadership in action on climate change. We should demonstrate that the EU delivers on emission reductions and has energy and climate policies which work. In this context, I look forward to parliament's resolution on COP 21", highlights the environment minister.

In terms of what exactly she would like to see featured in a global climate deal, Dieschbourg tells this magazine, "Paris needs to deliver a reliable, strong agreement paving the way for further ambition." 

"It should be a solid, durable and binding instrument all countries can sign up to and that will be a basis for staying below a two degree increase in global warming." 

"It should include provisions for regular review and strengthening of parties' greenhouse gas reduction commitments over time, in accordance with increasing technical possibilities and requirements of climate science."

"The EU stresses the transparency of the whole process: we need reporting and verification mechanisms which will ensure that states achieve their reduction commitments. We should also give the agreement a long term vision that translates the two degree objective into a more concrete long-term greenhouse gas reduction target."

She adds that, "apart from mitigation action, a key question in Paris will be how to address adaptation and how to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable countries receive enough support to engage in both. The EU must make clear that the agreement responds to these concerns." 

"The Luxembourgish EU council presidency will focus on and clearly prioritise climate finance, mechanisms to trigger and channel investments from state and private sector to developing countries and further operationalising the green climate fund." 

"Europe is a strong partner for developing countries and in 2013 alone, the EU and its member states contributed €9.5bn in climate finance."

A key component of European environmental policy is the implementation of an energy union, which Dieschbourg says "is clearly based on the assumption that a full decarbonisation of the EU energy system by mid-century is necessary and also feasible." 

"The member states' environment ministers take the threat of climate change very seriously. The challenge is clear and the technical sustainable solutions are ready." 

"It is fascinating to see how much progress has been made in the fields of energy efficiency and renewable energies: technologies are getting cheaper and more reliable, make economic sense and achieve energy security." 

"We have many climate solution technologies available and see clear signals pushing for this transition on many levels: cities and regions globally are taking on commitments and cooperate to achieve carbon reductions."

And, "it is also important to see the new financial trends: Norway's giant pension fund removes investments made risky by climate change from its portfolio, including coal and oil sands."

"This demonstrates that climate change is not only a risk for health and development; it is also a factor for financial decisions, with investments that threaten the climate system seen as more and more risky and unviable."

"Many investors are now starting to rethink their policies and putting more emphasis on sustainable energy solutions."

Climate can have a huge influence on a country's economy and wellbeing, and Dieschbourg is well aware of this, pointing out that, "climate change threatens the economic growth prospects of our economies and makes our population suffer, so fighting climate change is an obligation - and it provides opportunities that go beyond climate benefits - innovative solutions will keep our industry at the forefront of global technological knowhow and promote its long-term competitiveness."

Carole Dieschbourg is Luxembourg’s environment minister

 

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