Climate Diplomacy: We must act and we must act collectively

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Becoming the world's first climate-neutral continent is Europe's biggest challenge of the next decade. That success depends of the success of our global partners. Partnerships based on mutual ownership and shared responsibility, a new generation of trade agreements consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals, a Carbon Border Tax and a carbon price are key elements of a stronger European climate diplomacy, writes Margarida Marques. EPA-EFE/FELIIPE TRUEBA [EPA-EFE/FELIIPE TRUEBA]

Becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent is Europe’s biggest challenge of the next decade. That success depends on the success of our global partners, writes Margarida Marques.

Margarida Marques is an MEP in the Socialist and Democrat group and 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) co-rapporteur.

Partnerships based on mutual ownership and shared responsibility, a new generation of trade agreements consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals, a Carbon Border Tax and a carbon price are key elements of stronger European climate diplomacy.

The task of becoming the world´s first climate-neutral continent is the biggest challenge of the next decade for Europe. Climate is more than ever a political priority of World leaders. Movements and initiatives worldwide are making all of us accountable for the effects of climate change. Citizens carry the responsibility of a need of change and it has been recognised that the current economic growth model is achieving its limits. We must act and we must act collectively.

G20 countries alone are responsible for 78% of all CO2 emissions. In the last two decades, China increased exponentially its CO2 emissions; India is going on the same path. European efforts alone won’t be enough to achieve the agreed global climate goals. Europe must lead by example and we should promote EU interests and leadership on key global issues. Climate change and technological developments such as digitalisation and automatisation are changing the world of work and the way we live together as a society. To meet these challenges will require significant transformations in the way we live, produce and consume. We must see these challenges as opportunities and we need to shape these transformations in a fair, inclusive and sustainable way.

If the European Union needs to act internally, the EU should also put its efforts externally. The European Union Global Strategy launched in 2016 by Federica Mogherini is a compass to the action of the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy. A forward-looking vision that recognises the Sustainable Development Goals as a cross-cutting priority and its implementation as the driving force of all EU external policies.

Europe needs stronger partnerships based on mutual ownership, reciprocal commitments and shared responsibility. Only with the right political will and proper financing can the European Union continue to be a credible actor that can modernise the way it does development cooperation while keeping the human dimension at the heart of its ambition. As is the largest donor of development and humanitarian assistance worldwide, the European Union should play a key role supporting developing countries on their transition with adequate finance for their needs and getting the private sector on board to boost sustainable investment. The European Union must strengthen its partnerships towards more inclusive, flexible and resilient partnerships. Cooperation with Africa will play a crucial role in the next decade and is one of the priorities of the Portuguese Presidency in 2021. Its population is expected to double by 2050, today youth represents already 60% of the total population and several African countries are expected to be severely impacted by climate change. More than a challenge, this is an opportunity for Europe to support the development and the sustainable growth of a continent whose success is also the success of its neighbours and partners.

A new generation of trade agreements consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals has to be put in place. The European Union has to use trade policy as a tool to influence the behaviour of its trading partners in relation to environmental protection and their commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement. As recently mentioned by Sabine Weyand, Director-General of Trade in the European Commission, the EU “would use trade as one weapon in its international policy arsenal rather than merely following economic logic”.

Reaching carbon neutrality will also require changes in the EU carbon trading market as well as a carbon adjustment tax to incentive partners to take the necessary measures to fulfil the Paris Agreement. We need to put a price on pollution and step up our ambitious. The current EU Emissions Trading System has shown its fragility and we should discuss with our key partners a possible global carbon tax. EU companies should compete with international rivals on the same level playing field so the correct design of a new carbon adjustment mechanism is paramount to avoid further conflicts in the multilateral system.

The European Union can have a unique opportunity in the next decade to maintain responsible global leadership respecting our core values if it strives for a progressive and transformative global agenda.

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