Environment

Blueprint for a Paris climate change deal

13/05/2015

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015 will decide how the world deals with the threat of climate change over the coming decades.

The European Union is putting all its efforts into securing a global, legally binding agreement to be implemented from 2020. The EU has called for a new protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to contain fair commitments from all countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) to keep global temperature increases below 2°C. The agreement must put the world on track to reduce global emissions by at least 60 % below 2010 levels by 2050. In so doing, it should reflect evolving economic and geopolitical realities, notably through adequate commitments from all major and emerging economies.

In February, a European Commission Communication ‘The Paris Protocol – a blueprint for tackling global climate change beyond 2020’ set out its vision for the new deal. This confirms a commitment from EU leaders in October 2014, to cut domestic emissions by at least 40 %, compared to 1990 levels, by 2030. This target, which keeps the EU on track to a long-term goal of at least 80 % emissions reductions by 2050, is the core of the EU’s Paris pledge submitted to the UNFCCC in March.

Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said: “It is our fair share of what has to be done to achieve the internationally agreed below 2° C target. I now call on all our partners, especially major and emerging economies to match our level of ambition."

“Every person and every country of the world stand to benefit if we can prevent climate change from reaching dangerous levels,” he added. “In Paris, we will have a real opportunity to conclude an agreement that will help to do this, and we must grab it with both hands. The EU is committed to agreeing an ambitious protocol that will address emissions reductions, facilitate adaptation to climate change impacts and provide support from those countries in a position to do so to implement climate action in countries that need it."

EU emissions falling

The EU has shown it is serious about achieving its own goals for mitigating climate change. EU emissions fell by 19 % between 1990 and 2013. It is now responsible for less than 10 % of global GHGs, and this share is falling.

Fighting climate change also brings many benefits for EU citizens, including less air pollution and lower energy costs, a healthier environment, and new jobs in climate-friendly technologies.

But fighting climate change effectively requires a global effort. The Commission Communication urges all other countries to submit their proposed emissions reduction targets well before the Paris conference.

Each party to the UNFCCC is expected to prepare a contribution to the new agreement, as the EU has done. To date, a handful of other countries, including the US, Russia and Mexico have made submissions but more are expected in the coming months. The contributions presented so far represent some 25 % of global emissions.

While countries with the greatest responsibility and capabilities need to show political leadership and make the strongest commitments to cut GHGs, all countries must step up their efforts.

In the EU’s view, the protocol must set common rules for transparency and accountability, with robust systems to monitor, report and verify progress towards meeting targets. Independent experts should carry out regular reviews to build trust, create certainty, and send a signal that governments are serious about fighting climate change.

The protocol must also be dynamic. All emissions reduction commitments should be reviewed and strengthened every five years in light of the latest scientific data and progress in implementing current targets.

Helping the vulnerable

The Paris Protocol should include measures to boost investment in low-emission and climate-resilient technologies in all countries. The EU is committed to working with other parties to move towards a low-carbon, climate-resilient global economy that also eliminates poverty and ensures a decent life for all.

The most vulnerable will continue to have preferential access to grant funding, for example from the EU’s Global Climate Change Alliance or EU cooperation programmes. The Union also helps to mobilise loans and private investment through its regional investment facilities, while Member States offer support via bilateral cooperation programmes. In 2013 alone, the EU and its Member States provided some €9.5 billion to support climate action in developing countries.

Such action is urgent; it is estimated that the global average temperature could rise by 4°C or more before the end of the century unless action is taken to curb emissions.

The Paris conference is the next move in a process that began in 1992, when growing recognition of the threat posed by humanity’s interference with the global climate system led to the creation of the UNFCCC. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC was an essential first step towards cutting emissions, but only covered commitments from a number of industrialised countries. More than 90 countries have made voluntary emission-reduction pledges for 2020. But much tougher action is needed to keep the rise in temperatures below 2°C.

 

Climate action