Despite Paris Agreement, more ambitious EU emissions target unlikely

Delegates in Paris during the climate talks, helmed by France's then Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. [James Crisp]

EU regulators will say this week the European Union does not need a more ambitious greenhouse gas target until the next decade, according to a draft text, even though the Paris climate deal stipulates goals should be reviewed in 2018.

Such a decision would please member state Poland, whose economy relies heavily on coal, but it would anger environment campaigners, who see the Paris Agreement, agreed in December, as an argument for the European Union to step up its efforts on tackling climate change.

So far, the EU has agreed an outline target to cut emissions by at least 40% by 2030 from 1990 levels and has embarked on a difficult debate on how to share the task among its 28 member states.

A text prepared ahead of a meeting of EU environment ministers and seen by Reuters, says the existing target “is based on global projections that are in line with the medium-term ambition of the Paris Agreement”.

Ministers will debate the Paris climate deal in Brussels on Friday (4 March).

It added that a first global stock-take in 2023 of emissions reductions, as agreed in Paris, “is relevant for considering progressively more ambitious action by all parties for the period beyond 2030”.

That global stock-take is expected to be preceded by a special UN report in 2018 and governments in Paris agreed to an initial review of their actions before the next decade to get on track for net zero emissions in the second half of the century.

Environmental campaigners in December hailed the Paris Agreement as a clear step towards a far earlier agreement on deeper emissions cuts, especially as the EU target was worded “at least” on the understanding that if other countries backed a global deal, Europe would do more.

EU policy has been calculated on the basis of a two degree limit on global warming, which environmental activists and some scientists say is not enough to prevent the worst effects.

The Paris Agreement said planet-warming needed to be capped at well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and set an aspirational goal of 1.5 degrees.

COP21 celebrations, but governments must mind the emissions gap

World governments today (12 December) agreed a historic international agreement to fight global warming at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris.

French President François Hollande said immediately after the deal he engaged on behalf of France to revise the nation’s greenhouse gas goals by 2020 at the latest. However, Hollande’s presidential term ends in 2017.

EU Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete was already more circumspect, saying in December new European targets would be the work of the next Commission that takes office in 2019.

The current Commission had no immediate comment.

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.

Sketch: COP21 circus ends with love letters to Paris

“It’s like a European Council summit on drugs that goes on for weeks,” one flustered delegate at the UN Climate Change Conference told your reporter last week.


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