COP25 news and views: What’s happening in Madrid

Activists of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement stage a rally in solidarity with the Amazon indigenous people outside the IFEMA Convention and Exhibition Center, where the COP25 UN Climate Change Conference is held, in Madrid, Spain, 09 December 2019. The 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) under the presidency of the government of Chile runs from 02 to 13 December 2019 in the Spanish capital. [EPA-EFE/RODRIGO JIMENEZ]

This article is part of our special report COP25: Countries pressed to deliver.

As UN climate negotiations enter their second and decisive week, EURACTIV gives you a glimpse into the goings on of the 25th climate conference in Madrid (COP25) and what is driving the conversation there. In this edition: train ride, ray of the day, reality check-point, and climate finance big time.

EU delegation took the plane to Madrid. As most delegates and observers at COP25,  the European Commission has admitted it had to fly to Madrid, implying a heavy carbon footprint. “We were looking for our delegates to come here by train, but it would have taken 14 hours, and the price was three times higher,” said Elina Bardram, head of international unit at the Commission’s climate action directorate (DG Clima). “As we rely on taxpayer money, we couldn’t make that choice,” she said. Amid train strikes in France, flying turned out to be a safer bet. (Aline Robert, Euractiv France).

Timmermans won’t hesitate on carbon border tax. In his first international press conference as Commission Vice-President, Frans Timmermans said  the European Union will not hesitate to impose measures to protect its industries from competitors who do not respect the Paris Agreement. Commenting on the EU’s position regarding a possible “carbon tax” on imports from high-emitting competitors, Timmermans said he hoped there will be no need for such a measure. “But if it is necessary, we will not hesitate to take it,” he said.

Fossil of the Day for US, Australia, and Canada. Ray of the Day to Denmark. Despite leaving the Paris Agreement, the US still wants to have a seat at the table while making it clear they have no intention of paying the bill, Climate Action Network (CAN) said in a statement. And both the US and Australia “simply decided to turn their back and withhold their pledges” to double their contributions to the Green Climate Funds, it added. As for Canada, the NGO pointed out that the country is “recklessly” approving fossil fuel infrastructure projects that are not in line with the Paris Agreement, such as the TMX pipeline.

But Denmark is there to bring sunshine in an otherwise clouded climate summit. The Danish parliament agreed on a Climate Law that is binding for current and future governments and is in line with the 1.5C degrees temperature limit, CAN said. “Basically, Denmark turned science into law!,” it said. And the story is not finished yet, the NGO stressed, as Denmark set the target of reducing GHG emissions by 70% by 2030.

Reality check-point at the German delegation. “I don’t believe there will be a wave of countries increasing their ambitions,” state secretary Jochen Flasbarth of Germany’s environment ministry said Monday morning during a briefing with the press. He added however that “several countries” were about to move ahead. Like the global climate diplomacy bubble gathered in Madrid this week, the German state secretary is waiting for the outcome of the European Council meeting this week (12-13 December) to see if EU member states will finally give the green light to the bloc’s proposed 2050 climate neutrality goal. Should it be the case, the EU’s 2030 emissions reduction target of 40% “cannot remain as it is,” Flasbarth stressed.

EU businesses getting vocal. The whole world is staring at the EU this week, and so do businesses. Keeping the pressure before the EU Council meeting (12-13 December), EU business leaders from companies including Unilever, Ikea, EDF, Acciona and Iberdrola, called on the bloc to validate the 2050 carbon neutrality target and raise its emissions reduction target from 40% to “at least 55%” in 2030. The businesses are part of the European Corporate Leaders Group (CLG Europe) which last month already urged the EU to increase its climate ambition.

US non-state actors are still in. Things are also moving business-wise on the other side of the Atlantic. Today, America’s Pledge co-chair and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will officially present to the UN its third report analysing US greenhouse gas emissions. The report, titled ‘Accelerating America’s Pledge: Going All-In to Build a Prosperous, Low-Carbon Economy for the United States’, aims to show the world that US states, cities, businesses, and other organisations – called ‘non-state actors’ in UN jargon – representing nearly 70% of the country’s GDP have the power to reduce emissions. It also projects how far that leadership can take the US by 2030, even without backing from the White House. Since its launch in July 2017, America’s Pledge has published annual assessments of non-federal action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Investors call on governments to get their (financial) acts together. A record 631 institutional investors managing more than $37 trillion in assets on Monday urged governments to phase out thermal coal power worldwide, put a “meaningful” price on carbon, end subsidies for fossil fuels, and strengthen nationally-determined contributions to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. “The global shift to clean energy is underway, but much more needs to be done by governments to accelerate the low carbon transition and to improve the resilience of our economy, society and the financial system to climate risks,” the investors wrote. They warned the current government commitments leave an “ambition gap” that will not prevent global average temperature from rising beyond the 1.5 degree threshold that scientists warn could trigger catastrophic and irreversible effects of climate change.

Nucléaire, adieu? Nuclear power, currently the dominant energy source in France, is expected to be overtaken by renewable energy by 2027, according to a report published Monday by data and analytics company GlobalData. The report, entitled France Power Market Outlook to 2030, Update 2019 – Market Trends, Regulations, and Competitive Landscape’, shows that the share of renewable energy in France is expected to reach 42.9% of the country’s power mix by 2023, up from 19.9% in 2018. In the long-term, the government has decided to cut down its fossil fuel dependency and is replacing coal and oil-fired plants with gas-based plants and plans to reduce nuclear power to 50% of the country’s net generation capacity by 2035, the report underlines. The plan is to decommission around 14 nuclear reactors by 2035 and fill the gap with renewable energy sources. In 2018, nuclear power accounted for 47.2% of France’s energy mix, the report notes.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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