Moving climate action up several gears
The Doha climate change conference last December accelerated the campaign against global warming into a new phase, setting out a clear timetable for more ambitious action. The European Commission is now heavily engaged in ensuring that the commitments made will be honoured in practice.
The UN climate change conference cleared the way for work to begin on two fronts. The first recognises the need for more ambitious international efforts up to 2020 to close the gap between current emission pledges and what is needed to hold global warming below 2 °C, beyond which the impact of climate change will increase dramatically.
According to the latest analysis by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank, emissions of greenhouse gases are still increasing and if the world does not scale up and accelerate action on climate change without delay, rising emissions could lead to a temperature increase of over 4 °C by the end of this century.
The second work stream commits governments throughout the world to sign up to a new global climate agreement by 2015 which would come into force in 2020. To inject political momentum on both fronts, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has indicated his intention to convene a summit of world leaders on climate change next year.
In the short term, the Doha conference endorsed the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol. This began on 1 January 2013 and will run for eight years, ensuring that no gap occurs between its end and the entry into force of a new global agreement in 2020.
For the second Kyoto period, the EU has agreed an emissions reduction commitment in line with its domestic target of a 20% cut in 1990 levels by 2020, while leaving open the possibility of increasing this to 30% if other parties make comparable efforts.
Overall, some 60 countries have made pledges. The EU, while taking its own measures such as reducing CO2 emissions from cars, is now working with its international partners to try and ensure that the commitments are fully implemented.
That message will be underlined at the Doha follow-up meeting in Warsaw later this year and again in 2014 when efforts will be made to scale up the targets of all the countries participating in the second Kyoto period.
However, the fact that only developed countries must take action in this second period, and that many – notably the US, Russia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand – are not participating, means that Kyoto applies to only 14% of the world’s emissions. For this reason, the EU is attaching great importance to the new agreement which should ensure that all major economies contribute their fair share to the overall target.
The Commission is currently consulting with a range of interested parties on the elements of the new agreement, which will be able to draw on a far wider range of scientific data than were available for its Kyoto predecessor.