Europe is launching a major diplomatic push for an ambitious deal on global warming, mobilising A-list celebrities and tens of thousands of diplomats to exert “maximum pressure” on key countries in international climate negotiations.
The EU plan, endorsed by ministers on Monday in Brussels, will see 90,000 diplomats in over 3,000 missions lobbying to win new pledges on carbon cuts from countries ahead of a crunch UN climate summit in Paris this December.
European stars, of a calibre of US public figures such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore, will front a push to make climate action a “strategic priority” at G7, G20 and Major Economies Forum summits.
The action plan, seen by the Guardian, calls for a ‘Climate Action Day’ in June and a ‘100 days to Paris countdown’ event later in the year.
The aim is to raise the EU’s profile and cement alliances by winning new pledges for greenhouse gas cuts – intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) in UN jargon, the backbone of any deal in Paris – before June at the latest.
“The EU has enormous soft power and we must use that to push for an ambitious agenda in Paris,” the Danish foreign minister Martin Lidegaard told the Guardian. “I have urged my colleagues to commit to including climate diplomacy in their activities in the run up to COP21 [the Paris summit] – and the EU’s foreign service to work more on this. We should focus our efforts on the major growth economies and climate financing.”
A UK government spokesman described the diplomatic blitz as “a welcome step to ramp up European climate diplomacy globally”.
The action plan cites climate change as “a key element of preventive diplomacy,” aimed at preventing future violent conflicts through cooperation and dialogue. It also goes further than past EU communications, describing climate change as “a strategic threat affecting natural resource availability, economic stability and hence overall national and regional security”.
A diplomatic strategy plays to the EU’s strengths, according to Jason Anderson, the head of WWF’s climate and energy policy. “The EU is not going to be a big dog in the fight like the US or China and having this huge diplomatic network is a real resource that it makes sense to rely on,” he said. “It can have added value in preparations to build constituencies of interest ahead of Paris.”
However, the plan’s recommendation that “climate financing expectations need to be managed,” may disappoint emerging economies. Rich countries last year raised slightly less than 10% of the first tranche of a Green Climate Fund, which is supposed to provide $100bn-a-year of climate aid to poorer countries by 2020.
The action plan does note the value of multilateral action but also says that “particular focus should be put on mobilising the private sector as a major source of financing and of innovation to tackle climate change.”
Many developed countries are wary of profit-taking by multinationals with limited interest in helping them to adapt to droughts, floods or extreme weather events.
“Shifting the EU’s legal and moral responsibility on climate finance to the private sector will not wash with poorer countries,” said Asad Rehman, a senior international climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth.
“The private sector can only ever be an addition to, but never replace the much needed public finance that can help poorer countries deal with climate impacts and grow cleanly,” he added. “If the EU doesn’t shift this policy approach its charm offensive risks being viewed as primarily in the interests of EU businesses.”
In 2011, the EU was central to the ‘Durban alliance’ of Least Developed Countries, small island states threatened by rising sea levels and the ‘Cartagena group’ of progressive countries. Together, the bloc is thought to have constrained less climate-friendly stances from China or India.
But the EU’s global stock has declined a little since then as its politicians have appeared torn between a desire to help global decarbonisation while balancing that with growing rightwing populist parties opposed to more climate aid at a time of austerity.
In the run-up to 2015, EU officials are reportedly looking to a coalition with the AILAC bloc of Latin American countries, such as Costa Rica, Chile, Colombia and Peru.
“The EU is in a unique position to bridge the developed and the developing world,” Lidegaard said. “We saw that in Durban and that bridge is a precondition for success.”
- EURACTIV France: L'UE tente une offensive diplomatique sur le climat