‘Put a price on carbon, nature cannot pay,’ EU’s von der Leyen tells COP26

"We need to agree to a robust framework of rules, for example, to make global carbon markets a reality. Put a price on carbon, nature cannot pay that price anymore," said Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission. [European Union, 2021. Source: EC - Audiovisual Service]

Countries must put a price on the carbon dioxide emissions causing climate change, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the United Nations COP26 summit on Monday (1 November).

Von der Leyen joined leaders from more than 100 countries in Glasgow for the start of the COP26 conference, which will attempt to finish the rules to implement 2015’s Paris Agreement.

“We need to agree to a robust framework of rules, for example, to make global carbon markets a reality. Put a price on carbon, nature cannot pay that price anymore,” she said in a speech delivered in Glasgow.

Talks on designing a market to trade carbon emissions reductions under the Paris accord derailed the last UN climate summit in 2019, with countries squabbling over how the system would count towards their national climate targets.

The 27-country EU has pledged to cut its emissions at least 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels, and von der Leyen urged other countries to commit to deeper emissions cuts this decade.

“We have to give strong commitments to reduce emissions by 2030. Net zero by 2050 is good, but it’s not enough,” she said.

Czechs attack EU carbon pricing policies at COP26

The EU is negotiating new green policies, putting it ahead of many countries who have set far-off climate targets but not yet drawn up the legislation needed to deliver them.

Its proposals include phasing out sales of new combustion engine cars by 2035, and launching a second EU carbon market for the buildings and transport sector.

They have stoked tensions between wealthier western EU countries who favour ambitious climate action and poorer eastern states fearful of the social and economic fallout.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš used COP26 to attack what he called the EU’s “dangerous” climate proposals.

“This is not a deal but an ideology,” he said, adding that they would hurt citizens by making fossil fuels more expensive.

Babiš has been a frequent critic of the EU’s climate policies. When the coronavirus pandemic erupted last year, he urged the European Commission to ditch its Green Deal and when energy prices surged this Autumn, he called for capping the price of CO2 allowances on the EU carbon market.

Poland and Hungary are also vocal critics of the EU’s carbon pricing policies. Ahead of an EU summit last month, Warsaw called for the “revision or postponement” of the bloc’s 2030 climate plan, blaming the recent surge in energy prices on the EU’s carbon trading system.

Other countries at COP26 showed little enthusiasm for carbon pricing policies, with Australia putting its faith in science and technology to solve the problems caused by climate change.

“It will be met by those who frankly are largely not in this room,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday. “It will be our scientists, our technologists, our engineers, our entrepreneurs, our industrialists and our financiers that will actually chart a path to net zero,” he told the UN climate conference in Glasgow.

Eastern countries win carbon market 'study' at EU summit

The European Commission was instructed to “study” trading behaviour on the EU carbon market and crack down on potential abuse on energy markets after hours of tense debate at a summit on Thursday (21 October) where EU leaders haggled over rising energy prices.

[Editing and additional reporting by Frédéric Simon]

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