Reactions to COP21 deal largely cheerful, but guarded

Cheering activists

Giggling activists. COP21, 9 December. [COP PARIS/Flickr]

The international climate agreement struck in Paris offers a glimmer of hope to the EU policymaking bubble, although the EU’s main employers group was quick to warn about the downsides for European industry.

World governments agreed on a historic international agreement to fight global warming at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris over the weekend.

Almost 200 nations agreed to 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.

>>Read: COP21 celebrations, but governments must mind the emissions gap

The deal was hailed as the beginning of the end for fossil fuel industries, and a strong signal to markets for green investment and innovation. 

EURACTIV gives a round-up of political reactions below:

  • Business and industry

BusinessEurope said the Paris deal was “an important step forward” in driving emissions cuts from all countries, including major economies which compete with Europe. But it stressed those countries need to do more to match the EU’s level of ambition.

“Why? Because while many other major economies have accelerated their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the EU remains by far the most ambitious even amongst the developed countries. Unless other regions increase their level of ambition now in line with what the EU is already doing, it will not be enough to solve the climate challenge. As long as the EU is doing a solo run, our competitiveness remains at risk.

“We were hoping that other countries would increase their ambition to closer to that of the EU's,” said Emma Marcegaglia, President of BusinessEurope. “It is important that all major economies make comparable efforts as soon as possible. We will be assessing the impact of today’s outcome on the competitiveness of European industry,” she said in a statement. “European companies will continue to play a leading role in the development of low-carbon and energy-efficient solutions, provided that international carbon markets are allowed to work effectively.”

Eurelectric, the trade association representing the electricity industry at pan-European level, “strongly welcomed” the Paris deal, describing it as “a truly international climate agreement [which] provides the necessary signal to governments, businesses and the general public of the universal commitment to fighting climate change.”

“In particular, we strongly welcome the inclusion of positive provisions recognising the important role of markets in achieving the global low carbon transition,” said Eurelectric secretary-general Hans ten Berge. “We believe that market based mechanisms, such as carbon markets, are the most effective tool for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and stimulating investments in low carbon technologies and energy efficiency.” Eurelectric in particular welcomed provisions in the Paris Agreement “that will allow Parties to cooperate in meeting their mitigation commitments”

IFIEC Europe, the International Federation of Industrial Energy Consumers, whose heavy-polluting industries are subject to EU emissions limits, welcomed the Paris deal, saying it could lead to “a more level playing field for manufacturing industry” in Europe.

“But, for the time being, this agreement is more a non-binding declaration of intention than a concrete action plan,” it warned in a statement. “Restoring a more level playing field is essential for EU manufacturing industry. Today, we face a significant disadvantage when compared to non EU based competitors. This is linked to higher climate and energy costs pushed up by regulations aiming to implement an energy turnaround in isolation. It is now up to the other major global regions to choose a similar path to a low carbon future, as agreed in Paris. As a result the cost gap should decrease and could make EU industry to regain its competitiveness and keep delivering innovative technological solutions. This is the smartest way to design the world’s low carbon future without harming EU social welfare.

“The EU should check these actions of other regions thoroughly when designing its own climate policy. Combating global warming is a team effort; it can only be done together with all nations and industry worldwide,” said Annette Loske, President of IFIEC Europe.

The European chemical industry Council (CEDIC) said it “strongly endorsed international efforts to reach a binding global agreement” on climate change. “Building on COP21, the hard work must now continue. Paving the way to a successful transition towards a sustainable and competitive low carbon economy will take time, energy and innovative ideas,” said Hubert Mandery, CEFIC Director General.

  • European political parties and political groups in the EP

The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz: “'Historic' is an often-abused adjective in politics, but today's agreement deserves this qualification: it outlines the path on which we all have to embark to strengthen the global response to climate change in the short, medium and long term.

Paris has succeeded where previous negotiations had failed. It provides a universal and binding agreement which allows for increased ambition and reviews every five years. It sets out monitoring and reporting which will allow us to assess how well we are faring in our fight against climate change […].

This agreement sends a clear and unequivocal message that innovation, investment and research in cleaner and sustainable technologies and strategies, not polluting activities, will be the winning formulas.

The tough work starts now. Paris is a success today because all Parties have been truly included in the agreement in a democratic, transparent and pluralistic fashion. Parties must now implement and finance this agreement ensuring the highest degree of ownership at the state level, but also by subnational actors, civil society, investors, workers, citizens and parliaments.”

The President of the European People’s Party (EPP), Joseph Daul hailed the COP21 deal as a “vital commitment for our future”. Climate change “will impact people’s access to arable land, food and water, possibly intensifying migration fluxes and increasing the number of conflicts,” Daul said, underlining the EPP’s worry about climate change as “an imminent threat to the quality of life as we know it.

“But a global challenge calls for a global action. […]To implement successfully this agreement, all nations need to be on board. This implies solidarity between countries and the recognition of historical responsibility,” Daul said.

The Party of European Socialists (PES) congratulated all those who worked hard to reach a deal in Paris, in particular French President François Hollande who was praised for his “vision” and showing “leadership and bravery in hosting COP21”.

“Paris marks a turning of the page, a new chapter in our shared history on this planet. […] Now we have the agreement, the hard work really begins, and all countries must come good on their promises. The Paris Agreement gives us stronger rules on transparency and monitoring, so we will know if countries are acting as promised and what they are actually doing to protect the world’s climate. Every five years all countries will review and potentially ratchet-up their climate ambition.”

Kathleen Van Brempt, vice-president responsible for sustainable development at the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) group in the European Parliament: "The most positive outcome of Paris is that nearly all states - including developing countries and emerging economies - are committing themselves to make the necessary reductions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to tackle climate change. This is completely different from the former climate deals where only the developed countries were engaged in emission reductions.

"So actually, we have agreed upon the ‘safety standards’ of our climate-proof, common house that we will build together. We already have a lot of building blocks to build it, but unfortunately there are still bricks missing. The extra bricks have to be delivered in the so-called ratchet mechanism that will review and strengthen the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) every five years.

Matthias Groote, S&D spokesperson for environment: "The more ambitious the mitigation target the better. […]The Paris agreement sends a clear signal that the fossil fuel era is coming to an end and investments are now shifted to renewables and energy efficiency. Europe needs to make full use of its competitive advantage in these fields.

"We also need action in the framework of the International Civil Aviation (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to limit the emissions of international aviation and shipping that are not covered by the INDCs. We cannot afford to give a free ride to these sectors.”

Guy Verhofstadt, Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE): “This is a historic agreement that should be warmly welcomed. Our focus must now be on implementation; the clock is ticking to keep global warming under 2 degrees."

"After all the hard work, this historic climate agreement gives a clear signal that the world has taken an irreversible step towards a low carbon economy,” added Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, Member of the European Parliament Delegation at COP21 for the ALDE. “The old ways are over. Investors now have the guarantee that only zero carbon solutions will pay off."

"Today we should praise this historic deal, but the real work will begin tomorrow. Individuals, governments and businesses must now start implementing the agreement. Only national policies and new investments priorities can give the Paris outcome legs."

The Greens/EFA group in Parliament said the Paris agreement meant “phasing out fossil fuels by 2050,” which would require new tools and targets for 2020 and 2030.

“The tools in the agreement are not sufficient to guarantee the achievement of this temperature goal and we remain on track for a 3 degrees increase,” said MEP Yannick Jadot. “However, the commitment to regularly and scientifically review countries’ efforts provides an opportunity to close this gap. Civil society, local authorities and climate-friendly business will have a major role to play in forcing national governments to significantly increase their level of ambition and make the new Paris regime truly binding. The international stock-taking in 2018 must be effectively used to improve the current pledges for countries’ commitments before they are submitted in 2020 to prevent the low ambition being maintained until 2030.”

Green MEP Bas Eickhout added: “The implications of this agreement for Europe are clear: the EU needs to reassess its climate and energy targets for 2020 and 2030. The EU has promised to increase its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction target to 30% if there is global action on climate change; this condition has now been met. Achieving the goals set out in this agreement for limiting the increase in global temperature means developed countries need to decarbonise their economies before 2050.

“As an important step to this end, the EU’s malfunctioning emissions trading scheme must be fixed and this means finally and comprehensively addressing the oversupply of emissions permits. The European Parliament must ensure the surplus emissions permits from the trading periods up to 2020 are not carried over to the post-2020 phase of the ETS until 2030. This is essential to comply with commitments under the Paris Agreement."

For the Leftist GUE/NGL group, the Paris deal mostly came as a disappointment: "This agreement has every ingredient in it to be historical. […] However, the measures that have been agreed upon leave too much scope for interpretation and back-stalling. In particular, the mention of the long-term 'net-zero' emissions goal leaves room for a ‘business-as -usual’ scenario where the dirty energy industry still has the possibility to keep using fossil fuels, just as the [European] Commission wanted.

“We need to move away from fossil and into renewables to guarantee a viable planet for the generations to come. The non-binding elements on climate financing and loss damage deny developing countries a strong commitment on support from the West.

"What we fear most is the options open to Big Business to keep on going as before. They are not obligated to stop polluting, they simply have to compensate. If not regulated properly, this can lead to more human rights abuses.

  • Regional authorities

Committee of the Regions: The CoR admitted in a statement that its initial demands, spelt out ahead of the COP21, were “overly ambitious” and have therefore not been met. The EU assembly of local political leaders had urged national governments to agree not to add carbon to the atmosphere after 2050 and pressed the EU to cut greenhouse gases by 50% by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels). It also wanted the COP21 negotiators to decide to draw up an Action Plan for cities and regions.

None of this happened. "However, Europe's cities and regions take hope from the deal, above all because it is legally binding and because two important goals of the CoR were achieved,” the CoR said in a statement. “The agreement – for the first time – recognises the role of local governments in fighting climate change, and developed economies have made a commitment to provide $100 billion each year after 2020 to support developing countries' climate actions," said Markku Markkula, President of the Committee of the Regions. "These are significant achievements. The result – an agreement to keep climate change 'well below' 2 degrees, with an aim of 1.5 degrees – is better than many thought possible and provides real potential for us to build on."

  • Think tanks

E3G have judged the outcome as strong, a low "Va Va Voom" ? the most ambitious of the think tank’s three scenarios outlined before Paris. Nick Mabey, CEO of E3G, commented: “Paris means Governments will go further and faster to tackle climate change than ever before. The transition to a low carbon economy is now unstoppable, ensuring the end of the fossil fuel age.”

“The Paris Outcome is a turning point for action to limit climate change below dangerous levels. It signals the end of business as usual for the energy industries. […] Implementation of INDCs will mean that renewables will make up 78% of new power generation investment to 2030 in major economies. This will drive down the cost of renewable energy. Delivering this will require major reforms to electricity markets, business and financing models.

[…] Governments and investors will need to manage an orderly transition away from a fossil fuel dominated economy in a way that avoids stranded assets and negative impacts on workers. The G20 has established a taskforce on the implications of climate policy on financial stability which will report in 2016. In 2015 all international development financing institutions agreed to align their financing with the Paris climate goals.”

  • NGOs

The WWF was globally satisfied with the Paris goal of keeping global warming well below 2°C but pointed to potential shortcomings. The Paris agreement “must urgently be strengthened and complemented with accelerated action in the near-term if we are to have any hope of meeting the ultimate goal of limiting global warming well below 2C or 1.5C,” the WWF said in a statement. “Additionally, the finance for adaptation, loss and damage and scaled up emission reductions should be the first order of work after Paris.

“The Paris agreement is an important milestone. We made progress here, but the job is not done,” said Tasneem Essop, head of WWF delegation to the UN climate talks. “We must work back home to strengthen the national actions triggered by this agreement. We need to secure faster delivery of new cooperative efforts from governments, cities, businesses and citizens to make deeper emissions cuts, resource the energy transition in developing economies and protect the poor and most vulnerable. Countries must then come back next year with an aim to rapidly implement and strengthen the commitments made here.”

Greenpeace hailed the agreement saying, “Today the human race has joined in a common cause.” However, it immediately added that what matters most is what happens after the COP21. Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said: “The Paris Agreement is only one step on a long road, and there are parts of it that frustrate and disappoint me, but it is progress. This deal alone won’t dig us out of the hole we’re in, but it makes the sides less steep.”

Naidoo noted in particular that the Paris Agreement could give renewables a vital boost. “It’s the only technology mentioned in the Paris Agreement. There’s a yawning gap in this deal, but it can be bridged by clean technology."

There were areas of disappointment, of course. “The Paris Agreement is a Treaty under international law, so it is legally binding. But the national targets (the so-called INDCs) aren’t legally binding and nor are the financial commitments."

Greenpeace also praised the EU, which went to the COP21 as “a toothless tiger” but “rediscovered some courage” afterwards. “Alongside strong leadership from France, the coalition moved the negotiations forward,” said Greenpeace climate policy spokesperson Stefan Krug. “But the objectives agreed in Paris highlight the inadequacy of the EU’s own weak commitments on carbon emissions, renewables and energy efficiency.

“The first urgent steps will be to ratchet up EU climate and energy commitments and to adopt strong laws to fast-track the switch from fossil fuels to renewables.”

Friends of the Earth Europe was downright disappointed, calling the Paris deal “a sham”.

“Rich countries have moved the goal posts so far that we are left with a sham of a deal in Paris. Through piecemeal pledges and bullying tactics, rich countries have pushed through a very bad deal,” said Sara Shaw, Friends of the Earth International climate justice and energy coordinator.

“Despite the hype, the Paris agreement will fail to deliver. Politicians say it is a fair and ambitious deal – yet it is the complete opposite. People are being deceived. Vulnerable and affected people deserve better than this failed agreement; they are the ones who feel the worst impacts of our politicians' failure to take tough enough action,” said Dipti Bhatnagar, Friends of the Earth International climate justice and energy coordinator.

The European bloc of countries is amongst those which has offered only warm words and empty promises in Paris, rather than the necessary real action, Friends of the Earth added. “This is a treaty in favour of polluters not people. The EU’s support for a 1.5C upper temperature rise limit is disingenuous when it is not committing to more action,” said Susann Scherbarth, climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.

“If the EU wants to be genuine about the warm words it has said during these talks, it must urgently commit to deeper emissions cuts in the short and medium-term and to more long-term action – in the shape of a total phase out emissions well before 2050.” FoEE offers a detailed policy analysis of the Paris Agreement here.

Transport and Environment (T&E) was equally disappointed: “The absence of any reference to international aviation and shipping emissions in the Paris Agreement casts doubts over who is responsible for reining in their skyrocketing emissions,” it said in a statement.

“Aviation accounts for about 5% of global warming, and CO2 from shipping is about 3% of the global total. […] If treated as countries, global aviation and shipping would both make the list of top 10 emitters.

“The Agreement now leaves it unclear which actors have responsibility to reduce emissions from these sectors. If ICAO/IMO wish to retain a role, they must urgently scale up their ambition,” T&E said.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) “welcomed” the climate deal reached in Paris, saying “The role of forests, oceans and other natural ecosystems in absorbing carbon emissions and helping nations adapt to a changing climate has been clearly acknowledged in the new agreement.”

“We congratulate all Parties, and particularly the French government, on the successful hosting and conclusion of this landmark summit,” says IUCN President Mr Zhang Xinsheng. “The world has finally realised that what was at stake here in Paris was a deal that will ultimately define the future of our planet. Our eyes now turn to Hawai’i, where next year the IUCN World Conservation Congress will bring the global conservation community together to ensure that the ambitious promises laid out today are translated into even more ambitious action on the ground.”


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