The Brief: Commission must harness climate momentum

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


The European Commission has the chance, if it seizes the moment, to push through the higher renewable and energy efficiency targets that are needed to meet the EU’s Paris Agreement climate commitments.

By acting decisively and ambitiously, it can harness global political momentum to overwhelm those member states which oppose increasing the 2030 climate and energy goals.

At their October 2014 European Council, EU leaders watered down the Commission’s proposed 2030 targets. Instead of the original 30% increase in energy efficiency and renewables by 2030, the leaders agreed a boost of at least 27%.

But a year after the summit, world leaders backed the landmark Paris Agreement to cap global warming. The deal sets a limit of no more than a two degree increase in world temperatures, with an aspirational target of 1.5 degrees.

The promises made by governments, and the EU, to cut emissions are not enough to keep the two degree pledge.

The Commission is expected to publish its revised renewables and energy efficiency directives on 30 November. EU energy ministers will discuss them in early December. The European Parliament already backs a 40% efficiency target.

The EU must “communicate or update” its 2030 promises to the UN by 2020. So, increasing the 2030 targets in the draft legislation is both timely and necessary.

This week in Marrakech, leaders will thrash out how the Paris commitments can be translated into rules that can deliver.

On 4 November, the Paris Agreement entered into force, far earlier than many thought possible. It took nearly 20 years to get a climate deal on the table; it took less than a year to come into force.

This year, a separate landmark deal on aviation emissions was backed. In Kigali, an international agreement to phase out hydroflorocarbons was made. Political will for climate action is at an all-time high.

The timing and circumstances are ripe to hardwire higher targets into EU law. Failing to do so would waste an unprecedented opportunity.


Frans Timmermans has admitted that the European Project could fail, in this interview. He had harsh words for José Manuel Barroso, and said that the Brits only ever saw Europe as a market.

Jean-Claude Juncker confirmed he stepped in over Oettigate. He wants to extend the cooling off period for Commission presidents taking jobs in the private sector after leaving office. Tough questions were asked at the midday press briefing.

Eurozone finance ministers are meeting in Brussels today, ahead of tomorrow’s Economic and Financial Affairs Council, which will centre on corporate tax reform. Spain’s finance minister is meeting Commissioner Moscovici before the Eurogroup to discuss the country’s new budget, which the new minority government must submit as soon as possible.

MEPs are expected to reject new Basel banking standards that would require banks to hold greater reserves of capital. EU regulators have approved French plans for very high speed broadband.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted she will not let Brexit be sabotaged. She wrote the piece after last week’s High Court judgment, which gave MPs a say over Article 50. Nigel Farage and Gina Miller, the lead claimant in the case, crossed swords on the BBC. It’s well worth a look.

Amid talk of an early election, the UK government is appealing the judgment. Farage is plotting to lead a 100,000 strong march on the Supreme Court on the day of the hearing.

Labour has said it won’t block Article 50 but must know the details of any Brexit plan.There’s been little evidence of any plan so far but legislation to trigger Brexit is in the works.

The European Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs will discuss the process to trigger Article 50 and negotiations on the final Brexit terms tomorrow. May is in India, putting out feelers for a post-Brexit trade deal.

Cyprus peace negotiations could reach agreement by the year-end. Socialists are leading Bulgaria’s presidential race. Montenegro has claimed it foiled a Russian plot to kill its prime minister.

Angela Merkel shunned the party conference of her junior coalition partner for the first time since becoming chancellor in 2005. Luxembourg’s foreign minister has compared the Turkish government to the Nazis.


There was a brilliant New Yorker article, published after the Brexit vote, headlined British Lose Right To Claim That Americans Are Dumber. Our New World friends may be feeling a little less cocky tomorrow. They will elect either Hillary Clinton, today cleared again by the FBI, or Donald Trump, who, objectively speaking, is an orange egotist with tiny hands.

Here’s a fun piece on the drinking habits of presidents to get you in the election mood, and some smart analysis by Tony Connelly on why Europeans are terrified of Trump.


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