The EU must be more ambitious if it is to play a constructive and proactive role in shaping the Paris Climate Conference (COP21), or else risk being a bystander. The stakes are higher than ever before. We must limit the global rise in temperature to a maximum of 2°C if we are to curb the worst excesses of climate change’s impact: droughts, floods and food crises which result in loss of life, increased instability, decreased labour productivity, health impacts and economic loss.
The climate talks which took place in Copenhagen (COP15) in 2009 resulted in mass disappointment to say the least and a very weak accord which failed to set any commitments to reduce emissions. Six years on it is important that we are critical and realistic about what will be achieved at COP21, but not hopeless.
The “intended nationally determined contribution” (INDC) represent the first time in the UN climate conference’s history that all countries are obligated to provide national pledges to manage their greenhouse gas emissions. INDC pledges will go much further than what was agreed in Copenhagen and it is a positive step, but they will not stretch far enough and will overtake the limit of a 2°C global temperature rise. We should be striving not to reach the 2°C target. The Alliance of Small Island States says that a global temperature rise of 2°C will see their demise; 1.5°C of global warming is the absolute maximum for their survival.
Also for the first time the climate conference will aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change, legally binding targets are crucial but they will only be effective if they are accompanied by rules on transparency and accountability. Such rules will also help to re-build trust between countries which was lost following Copenhagen. However COP21 is but one step of the process to slash carbon emissions in order to stop runaway climate change, what happens post COP21 is crucial. Getting INDC pledges on the table is only useful if national governments are pressured to maintain their pledges.
Respecting the global carbon budget means leaving at least three quarters of all known fossil fuel reserves in the ground. The Divestment campaign to make the world fossil free has gained increasing momentum around the world, particularly in Europe. Fossil fuel subsidies must be removed urgently, and investment should be redirected to instigate a global renewable energy revolution, demanding energy access for all and particularly for those most in need.
All sectors must equally contribute, therefore it is fundamental that clear and ambitious targets are also applied for maritime and aviation emissions at COP21. Setting binding goals will also help give businesses and investors worldwide confidence about the speed and trend of the transition towards a cleaner planet. We must have a zero-carbon society by 2050. A 100% renewable energy future will not only result in stopping our carbon emissions but it will also create jobs and could help deliver greater equity in some of the world’s poorest areas.
Binding national targets on renewable energy and energy efficiency are imperative; however EU governments are not willing to accept national targets. The European Commission has renewed its commitment to a 30% target for energy efficiency in the EU by 2030, but it is not clear how the non-binding and weak 2030 target agreed by EU governments will move us towards this goal. The EU has to up its ambition if it is to positively influence the outcome of COP21 therefore we need to deliver on commitments up to 2020, while also committing to a fair and predictable scale of public climate finance beyond 2020. It is estimated that the EU could deliver early on its 2020 targets, but this is no reason to stop. The EU needs to lead by creating a habit of going above and beyond agreed targets with known technology.
Finance for assisting developing countries most affected by climate change will also be a crucial factor in agreement at COP21. We must demand that the commitment made by developed countries to mobilise 100 billion USD per year is honoured in order to build trust between all parties. An integrated and coherent loss and damage mechanism is crucial in order to provide strong support to states already impacted by climate change.
Europe has been the biggest donor of fast track finance, but further resources are still required. This is a prime opportunity for Europe to show its ambition and commitment to tackling climate change now with the necessary financial resources. All public climate finance should exclusively support climate resilient measures and renewable energy sources. Climate finance also has to be predictable and transparent to maintain trust that it will be delivered.
Poverty eradication is not possible without tackling climate change and the 13th UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of “climate action” highlights this. Both the SDGs and COP21 have timeframes that aim to be achieved by 2030 therefore it is paramount that both agreements complement each other. Many developing countries are at the front line of climate change, not only does the EU need to step up its commitment to climate financing and the SDGs it also needs to make sure that the voices of those nations being most affected by climate change are heard in COP21 and affect the outcome.
About the author
Jean Lambert was first elected to the European Parliament in 1999 as the Green Member for London, representing the views of those who want an environmentally sustainable fairer society. She was re-elected for a fourth term in the May 2014 European Elections.
Jean currently is a full member of the committee on Employment and Social Affairs where she focuses on social inclusion, workers’ rights, immigration, social security, and the European semester process.
Jean is also a substitute member of the committee on Civil Liberties where she works on issues related to asylum, immigration, children’s rights and anti-discrimination.
In 2014, Jean was re-elected for a second term as the Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with the countries of South Asia. Within this delegation, she leads on the Parliament’s external relations with Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. She is also a substitute on the India and Afghanistan delegations.