Climate change update: will the UN member states regain momentum despite the little progress at COP23?

Siim-Valmar Kiisler, Minister of the Environment of Estonia, on the right, and Miguel Arias Cañete.
Date: 14/11/2017. Location: Bonn. © European Union , 2017 Photo: Ina Fassbender

The 23rd conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23) concluded last Saturday in Bonn but little progress was achieved and everyone is now awaiting next year’s negotiations in Poland where a rule book for the Paris agreement has to be finalised.

All member states should reconsider their emission cuts upwards via the “Talanoa dialogue” from 2018; the year the agreement enters into force. This is one of the tools in the Paris Agreement which allow counties to raise their ambitions before 2020.

However, one of the thorny issues in COP23 was climate finance. Under Article 9 of the Paris Agreement, developed countries have committed to “provide financial resources to assist developing country Parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation” and to increase their financial aid every two years.

Climate finance

Developed countries had specifically pledged to raise 100 billion US dollars each year in climate finance but till September 2017 only 10,3 billion US dollars were promised. The developing members are relying on the developed ones to a great extent. The Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance mentioned that: “COP23 has fallen short of the momentum and pathway for the implementation of the Paris Agreement”. Moreover, Shaddad Mauwa, a scientist, said on the matter: “If you look at the article on finance, we are not seeing it coming. And as a result, we are suffering in Africa”.

During COP23, Germany and Sweden pledged 50 and 186 million euros each to the Adaptation Fund and the Least Developed Countries Fund respectively. Furthermore, Belgium will provide a financial support of 10,25 million euros to the Least Developed Countries Fund. But all these contributions are far below the initial pledges.

France’s initiative

Europe is one of the main participants and contributors of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preventing temperature increase above 2 degrees Celcius compared to pre-industrial levels. This was once more revealed by Emmanuel Macron’s statement that the EU will take the place of the U.S. as the latter will drop the Paris Agreement in 2020. More in detail, the French President said: “I propose that Europe replaces America. And France will meet that challenge.

Angela Merkel though was not so optimistic and didn’t make any promises about Germany’s actions. The German Chancellor said that: “We know we have a responsibility here – we still use a lot of coal, particularly lignite. Even within a wealthy country like Germany there are conflicts need to be solved in a calm and reliable manner.” Also the fact that Germany’s power sector depends by around 45% on coal and that the country is most likely to miss its 2020 emissions reduction targets are inhibitory factors and slows down Europe’s effort to provide additional support to the fight against climate change.

EU is not expected to reach its 2030 reduction emissions target (40% below 1990 levels by 2030) if policies remain unstable, the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) reported last Wednesday. The director of Climate Action Network Europe, one of the organizations that publish the CCPI, mentioned that the statements of France and Germany still await to be materialized. Wendel Trio said that: “The report reveals that the EU vows commitment to the Paris Agreement, but avoids real climate action at home. The EU needs to translate words into action and commit to deeper emission cuts than currently foreseen.”

Commission’s optimism

Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU’s commissioner for climate action, mentioned during COP23 that the EU is going to meet its climate goals based on the emissions trading reform and the expected proposals.

But a strong pledge by the 28 European nations is mandatory according to the climate chief who is very optimistic for the next meeting in France held by President Macron.

All in all, there is still a long way to go till the implementation of the Paris agreement but it seems that it is very hard for Europe alone to replace US. All member states, especially the ones that can contribute even more that already pledged, need to join their forces in order to be able to fight climate change more effectively. The next climate summit (COP24) which will be hosted by Katowice, Poland in December 2018 will be crucial for the finilisation of the rulebook as it is also the only EU member state which still hasn’t ratified the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, which includes the commitment by the EU to cut its emissions by 30% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

However, there will be several meetings till COP24 to enhance the ongoing situation and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. The next climate stop is the UN Environment Assembly taking place in Nairobi from 4-6 December where all 193 member states of the United Nations will discuss on how to deal with pollution and move towards a pollution-free planet.

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