The Durban climate change conference in 2011 acknowledged the urgent need to step up global action to cut greenhouse gas emissions before 2020 to address the gap between current emission pledges and the reductions needed to keep global warming below 2°C. Thanks to pressure from the EU and the most vulnerable developing countries, the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action includes a work stream on raising the ambition of pre-2020 emission reductions.
At the Doha climate conference in 2012, a detailed work plan was agreed which sets out a schedule of events and suggests themes to be addressed in order to take this work forward in 2013-2014. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's plan to convene a summit of world leaders on climate in 2014 will give added political momentum to this work.
In connection with the Copenhagen, Cancún, Durban and Doha conferences, more than 90 developed and developing countries have made voluntary emission reduction or limitation pledges for 2020. Though these pledges cover some 80% of global emissions, it is clear that they are not ambitious enough to put global emissions on a path that will hold global warming below 2°C.The 2012 Emissions Gap report of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) shows the divergence between current pledges and the action needed to stay below 2°C is still growing.
To narrow this 'ambition gap', the EU wants countries that have not yet made emission pledges for 2020 to do so as soon as possible. Those that have made pledges in the form of target ranges should consider how to move to the most ambitious end of their ranges when political conditions allow.
Moreover, increased transparency on the implementation of existing pledges is needed in order to better assess this gap and ensure it does not increase further.
In addition to formal mitigation pledges, the EU and a number of other countries are proposing to enhance ambition through 'international cooperative initiatives' (ICIs) involving governments, civil society and the private sector.
If carefully designed and implemented, such voluntary partnerships could help countries to accelerate immediate climate action and go beyond their current mitigation commitments for 2020 and thereafter. They could also inspire action under the UNFCCC. The EU wants ICIs to be transparent and to inform the UNFCCC of their contributions to global mitigation efforts.
The focus could be on international and national actions where there is still significant potential to mitigate emissions that is insufficiently addressed, such as international shipping and aviation, the production and use of fluorinated gases and reform of fossil fuel subsidies. ICIs could also increase and speed up action in other sectors crucial to emissions reduction, such as forestry (REDD+ initiatives), renewable energy and energy efficiency, and could help identify ways to mobilise climate finance and to deliver the greatest benefits in terms of mitigation and sustainable development.
The EU is keen to work on ICIs as part of 'coalitions of the willing' that bring together key political players and stakeholders. The European Commission and several EU member states are partners in the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) to reduce so-called short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone (smog) and HFCs. They are working to move the coalition beyond its first steps towards efforts with the potential to have global impacts, such as mobilising support for an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs.