The Paris agreement one year on: What next?

We can all be proud of the EU's climate achievements in the past year, but we must not be complacent, writes Jos Delbeke.

Jos Delbeke | Photo credit: European Commission audiovisual

By Jos Delbeke

21 Dec 2016

On the eve of the Paris climate conference last year, I wrote in this publication about my hopes and expectations for a comprehensive global agreement on climate change. 

Having recently returned from COP22 in Marrakech, and as we mark the first anniversary of the Paris agreement, I am struck by the scale and pace of the progress made since the world gathered in France 12 months ago.

The EU, and our partners around the world, grasped this historic opportunity, securing an ambitious climate deal and setting the course for sustainable, low-carbon economies in the years to come.


Since then, we have witnessed unprecedented commitment to global climate action: to date, the agreement has been signed by 193 parties and ratified by 115. 

The EU has been at the centre throughout, with the Commission, member states and Parliament acting decisively to approve ratification of the agreement and trigger entry into force less than a year after it was agreed. 

Ahead of the Marrakech conference, the EU was clear that COP22 had to deliver real progress on the key elements for implementing the Paris agreement, as well as enhancing immediate action to reduce emissions and improve transparency. 

Parties were under the spotlight in Marrakech. After the political breakthrough achieved in Paris, the world expected tangible action and I am pleased to say we delivered.

We delivered on continued political commitment at the highest level, with the Marrakech action proclamation reaffirming leaders' intentions to build on the momentum of the past year and turn our pledges into action.

We delivered on a range of technical work which will guide the implementation of the Paris agreement, including transparency of action and the process for reviewing our collective ambition over time. We also agreed that we should act swiftly to ensure the Paris rulebook is ready by 2018.

We delivered on the commitments we have made to our most vulnerable partners, with progress on capacity building, loss and damage, funding for adaptation to deal with the impacts of climate change and long-term climate finance. 

In 2015, the EU and its member states provided €17.6bn for climate action in developing countries. We are, and always will be, a reliable partner in the fight against climate change.

And finally, we delivered on the real-world action we must take now, with the EU once again at the forefront of the global climate action agenda. 

The EU and its member states made a number of new commitments, including contributions to the G7's InsuResilence initiative for increased access to climate-risk insurance for the most vulnerable. 

The EU also reaffirmed its leading role in supporting the African continent in the fight against climate change and in the promotion of renewable energies.

We live in uncertain political times. Yet while it is too premature to comment on US climate policy after 20 January 2017, as European climate action and energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said, the message from Marrakech is clear: "We will stand by Paris, we will defend Paris, and we will implement Paris". 

I was greatly encouraged to hear leaders from so many countries - including China, which is increasing its cooperation with the EU on climate and energy - reaffirm their intention to forge ahead with climate action. They recognise, as we do, that the transition to low-carbon economies is irreversible.

We are already seeing global investment flows shifting to the sustainable, low-carbon sectors that will deliver the jobs and growth of the future.

The EU experience shows that strong action on climate change goes hand in hand with economic growth. We will continue to show climate leadership and support our partners in their efforts to reduce emissions, adapt to climate change, and transform their economies.

We have also been very busy on the domestic policy front. The Commission has introduced a package of measures to accelerate the shift to low-carbon emissions. 

This includes a proposal to reform the EU emissions trading system, and binding greenhouse gas emission targets for member states from 2021-2030 for the transport, buildings, agriculture, waste and land use and forestry sectors. 

These policies are backed by the European fund for strategic investments, as well as the 20 per cent of the EU budget allocated to climate action, to ensure the necessary financing is in place.

The clean energy for all Europeans package, launched last month, cements the EU's leadership role in the clean energy transition. It will boost energy efficiency and renewables, modernise energy markets, keep Europe competitive and provide a good deal for consumers.

When I wrote of my hopes for the Paris conference last year, I could not have predicted how far we would come in just 12 months. We should all be proud of the role the European Union has played in tackling this critical global issue. 

However, we cannot be complacent. My mind has already turned to the important work ahead of us in 2017 and the years that follow. I know I can count on support from across the EU as we move forward with our ambitious climate leadership.


Read the most recent articles written by Jos Delbeke - Post-COP21: Decarbonising challenges ahead for transport sector