European Union leaders are unlikely to discuss how the bloc will build on the Paris agreement to cap global warming at their summit next week, it has emerged.
Environment ministers on Friday (4 March) criticised the European Commission’s response to the pact, which advised against increasing the EU’s 2030 climate targets.
The executive had said it could revise the 2030 targets of at least 40% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, and an increase in renewables and energy efficiency of 27%, depending on the outcome of last December’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP21).
That debate was widely expected to be a precursor to a discussion at leader level at the European Council. EURACTIV.com understands that the Commission’s climate team was preparing for the 17 March summit, right up until early this week.
But, as yet, the topic is not on the agenda of the summit, which will be dominated by the migration crisis and a mooted deal between the EU and Turkey to stem the flow of refugees into the EU.
While acknowledging the importance of the migration crisis, campaigners told EURACTIV that it was important to strike while the iron was still hot, and capitalise on the good-feeling generated by the landmark deal.
Doing so would send a strong signal to investors that the “high ambition” for which the Paris Agreement has been praised would be followed up with action, said Nick Molho, executive director of the Aldersgate Group, a business alliance for a sustainable economy.
That signal would drive investment in clean energy, which in turn would ultimately lower roll-out costs, as well as boosting Europe’s competitiveness, he added.
The agreement struck in Paris in December set a limit of two degrees above pre-industrial levels, with an aspirational goal of 1.5 degrees.
“Many leaders are quick to say climate change is our greatest threat, but actions speak louder than words,” said Brook Riley, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. Climate change was also proven to aggravate migration flows, he added.
Although the COP21 deal is not on the agenda, some sources suggested European Council President Donald Tusk would prepare a short missive on the topic that would be signed off by leaders with minimum discussion.
EU sources said that European Council conclusions from December had never explicitly said it would discuss the issue at the March summit.
Instead, the Council asked the Commission and the Environment Council to assess the results of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) by March.
Tara Connelly, of Greenpeace, said COP21 could still be discussed. But the environment ministers had already sent out a strong signal on behalf of national governments.
On Friday, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg and Portugal pushed for higher targets at the Environment Council, Italy, Lithuania and Hungary said they were already too tough.
“The Commission needs to revise the 2030 targets to reflect the increased ambition of the COP21 deal,” Connolly said. Not doing so would sacrifice the role of climate leader that the EU forged in Paris.
Molho agreed. He said that the Aldersgate Group wanted stronger targets to eventually come from the summit, which could in turn be used to leverage pressure on countries like China and India to up their ambition.
Negotiations on climate change began in 1992, and the UN organises an annual international climate change conference called the Conference of the Parties, or COP.
Paris hosted the all-important 21st conference in December 2015. The participating states reached an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, the object of which was to reduce CO2 emissions between 2008 and 2012.
Almost 200 nations agreed a deal to cap global warming at “well below” two degrees above pre-industrial levels, with a reference to a lower, long-term 1.5 degree target in the text.
- 17 March: European Council