EU sets ambitious targets for the Warsaw climate conference

Warsaw, Poland. 19th session of the Conference of the Parties participating in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change 18-22 November 2013. (UN climate change).

Warsaw, Poland. 19th session of the Conference of the Parties participating in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change 18-22 November 2013. (UN climate change).

The UN climate conferences are the kind on international tribunes, where the European Union can present its opinions with pride. It’s not only that the EU has unilaterally set a target to cut down green-house emissions by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, but also because this programme is on track to achieve targets. On top of that, the European Parliament, in a resolution voted in October, has offered that the EU can increase its emission reduction target to 30% by 2020, if other major emitting regions commit themselves to comparable goals.

Given that, the EU Parliament delegation presently attending the UN climate conference held in Warsaw this week, has, if not an easy job at least a gratifying one. The 19th United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP19) held this week in Warsaw, aims to set out a timetable and steps towards a global and binding climate agreement to be concluded in Paris in 2015. The conference will be attended by ten EU legislators, led by MEP Matthias Groote (S&D, DE).

Can COP 19 do the job?

COP 19 is the 19th session of the Conference of the Parties participating in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The COP is the supreme decision-making body of the Convention. All governments that are party to the Convention are represented at the COP, where they review and promote the implementation of the Convention.

Unfortunately, the Polish government also chose to hold in Warsaw an international meeting of the coal industry during this week, which is invariably associated with dark skies. It may be true that 40% of the electricity consumed today in Europe comes from coal, but it’s a blunder, at least aesthetically, to invite the coal industry to gather at the same place and the same time, with the colourful crowd usually present in environmental events. Naturally the outcry reached the grey winter skies of the Polish capital.

EU leads the world

Coming back to the EU Parliament delegation, its leader Matthias Groote said, “We want real pledges from all regions in the world. We want to move forward now and not in 2018 or 2020. We have to keep Paris 2015 in mind, and we have to push for binding commitments from developing countries too. We also need more financial support from developed countries”. To underline the EU’s offer for a 30% cut in green-house emissions by 2020, Groote will hold a joint press conference with EU Climate Action Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard tomorrow, Wednesday.

Of course it will be a very difficult, if not impossible job to get such pledges from say the US or China on this occasion. This is an interim conference to pave the way for the Paris meeting in 2015, where the real intentions will be exposed. The major impediment to courageous climate target setting remains the languishing effort of the world economy, which tries to remain afloat, in view of the falling growth rates. Only China shows robust growth but its new leadership appears reluctant to undermine economic development for the sake of the world climate.

As they say, when it comes to action to effectively fight the climate change, it’s the ‘after you Sir’ syndrome that prevails. The EU however has shown leadership in this respect and proposed to lead the way. Unfortunately, it was the US and China in Copenhagen four years ago who undermined any progress. This attitude led to complete failure the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, serving as the Meeting of the Parties participating in the Kyoto Protocol, which took place in Copenhagen in December 2009. Hopefully this UNFCCC doesn’t have the same frustrating conclusion.

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