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Climate change cooperation with non-EU countries

The European Commission cooperates with the Member States to engage key strategic non-EU partners in dialogue and cooperation on climate change. 



The European Commission published a Communication in February 2005 entitled "Winning the Battle Against Climate Change".  This communication outlined key elements for the EU's post-2012 strategy. Specifically, it called for stronger cooperation with third countries in order to tackle the climate change problem.

Following the publication of this Communication, EU Heads of State and Government at the European Spring Councilpdf in March 2005 and subsequent Environment Councils re-iterated the need to cooperate strategically with third countries, with the Spring Council highlighting in particular the need to consider ways to effectively involve major energy-consuming countries, including those among the emerging and developing countries.

Within the Commission, this mandate has been taken forward via a variety of bilateral arrangements with a number of key strategic partners.  These include a number of OECD countries, such as the US, Canada, Japan and Australia, plus other United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) Annex I countries such as the Russian Federation and Ukraine.  In the developing world, climate change partnerships or dialogues have been developed with emerging economies such as Brazil, India, China, S. Korea and South Africa.  The EC also interacts with a number of regional groupings on environment and climate change issues such as the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM), the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries and the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

On 10 January 2007, the European Commission set out proposals and options for keeping climate change to manageable levels in its Communication "Limiting Global Climate Change to 2° Celsius: The way ahead for 2020 and beyond".  The Communication proposed a set of actions by developed and developing countries that would enable the world to limit global warming to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures and is part of a comprehensive package of energy and climate change policies for Europe. This Communication was largely endorsed by the 2007 European Council.  On 28 January 2009, the European Commission adopted a further Communication, 'Towards a comprehensive climate change agreement in Copenhagen,' which set out concrete proposals for the successful negotiation of a global agreement at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen (December 2009) for the period after 2012 as well as the European Commission's expectations of developed and developing country partners under the new global agreement.  These proposals were largely endorsed by EU Environment Ministers on 4 March 2009pdf and were discussed by EU Heads of State and Government at the March 2009 Spring Council.pdf.

Sick world © Hemera

In the context of the Climate and Energy Package, the EU is prepared to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% over 1990 by 2020 and by 30% if other developed countries take on comparable commitments in a new international agreement.  However, unilateral action by developed countries will not solve the climate problem. In order to keep global average temperature increase below 2°C, developing countries, as a group, in particular the most advanced among them, should reduce their emissions by 15 to 30 % below business as usual by 2020, respecting the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. 

The diversity in national circumstances and development levels will require different types of actions. Developing countries will require financial and technological assistance.  The EU believes that financial support should be based on "low carbon development strategies" developed by developing countries.  These should set out which measures (eg the low hanging fruits) a country can take without additional financial and technical assistance.  Beyond such win-win measures, the European Commission proposes that developed countries should contribute via the use of carbon crediting mechanisms and public funding. Public financial contributions should be comparable and be based on emission levels and each country’s economic capability.

Additionally, a major boost must be given to research, development and demonstration of low-carbon and adaptation technologies.

Why cooperate?

Climate change is an integrated part of the EU's domestic and foreign policy agendas.  This is because it has the potential to affect almost every aspect of our everyday lives and the lives of people in other countries.  For this reason, the EU has sought to "mainstream" climate change across the board of domestic and external policy areas.

There are several strategic objectives which the European Commission aims to achieve in cooperating with external partners about climate change:

  • Building political will and trust – the EU is convinced that the way to achieve the 2º objective is through a global and comprehensive agreement for the period post-2012 and that this agreement must be founded in the UNFCCC.  In order to ensure that this process is inclusive, it is necessary to convince partners that climate change actions make economic and environmental sense and that climate action is entirely compatible with national policy objectives (eg development, health, energy security or foreign policy objectives).
  • Building capacity – in order to achieve the EU's objective of limiting global climate change to 2ºC, we need to ensure that our global partners are able to tackle the problem.  This means, inter alia, ensuring that the most vulnerable countries are able to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change, and that the greatest emitters are in a practical, technical and administrative position to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Aid effectiveness and the Millennium Development Goals – in the case of developing countries, the EU has signed up to the Millennium Development Goals and is committed to ensuring the effectiveness of its development aid spending.  Climate change impacts have the potential to undermine policies and projects aimed at poverty eradication and economic development, and it therefore makes sense to ensure that donor and recipient implementation of aid and development policies consider climate change impacts at every stage.  Furthermore, it is part of the EC's humanitarian role to ensure that we assist the most vulnerable on our planet, including when it comes to coping with the impacts of climate change.