The EU’s climate change challenge

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Seán Kelly [European Parliament]

Failure to address climate change effectively will lead to adverse impacts on all countries, but if EU ambition is matched globally, we will maintain economic growth and job creation while meeting the 2°C objective, writes Seán Kelly.

Seán Kelly is an MEP in the EPP group and the only Irish member of the European Parliament delegation to the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris this December. 

Climate Change is one of the biggest global challenges we face this century, and the bottom line is, we need an ambitious and binding global agreement. This is what we will push for that at the UN Global Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21).

Europe should lead the world in climate ambition as we are best placed to do so. But it is vital that the rest of the world, particularly the other big emitters, show the same level of commitment. 

Without a global and binding agreement, we in Europe risk losing key sectors to other parts of the world. A legally binding agreement would not only put the world on an ambitious path to combat climate change but would also prevent the possible closure of industries in Europe whose production processes are energy intensive and lead to high emissions: manufacturing plants, skimmed milk powder plants, steelworks . If Europe has more stringent requirements than the rest of the world, these industries could uproot and set up less efficient factories in countries that are more lenient, and take the jobs with them.

It would be extremely short-sighted of us to allow a situation to occur in which EU regulation is far more stringent than the rest of the world as this would lead to carbon leakage to other less efficient production systems and could, in fact, lead to increased levels of emissions globally.

Any agreement should enable all parties to pursue low-carbon, climate-resilient sustainable development. It is important that the agreement is ambitious and inclusive and we must find ways to maximise participation by all parties.

We must achieve a balance between food security and climate change objectives. Innovation towards the sustainable intensification of food production is an important step in this regard. Agriculture, livestock and land-use sectors must play their part in the transition to a safe, sustainable, low-carbon future.

It is vital that we increase the share of renewables in our energy mix and this is an important part of our work in creating an Energy Union in Brussels. Increased energy efficiency is also something that we need to strive for, and this will not only bring huge emission reductions but also contribute greatly to European energy security.

Technological innovation will help us move towards a low carbon energy system. Investing resources into research, development and demonstration is a must. Research efforts should be strengthened in further developing renewable energy technologies, as well as a new generation of flexible renewable energy technologies such as biomass, geothermal, solar-thermal electricity and ocean energy technologies. Improving the performance, reliability and efficiency of energy technologies would greatly increase their viability and deployment.

We received our mandate with a huge majority in the European Parliament and we are ready to get to the negotiating table in Paris. We want to see a legally binding and ambitious agreement to maintain EU competitiveness and allay fears about carbon leakage; we want a predictable framework put in place so as to encourage investment; we want to ensure a stable climate system which is vital for food security, energy production, water and sanitation, infrastructure, the preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems, and, indeed, global peace and prosperity. It all comes down to a key point – we want a real and concrete global commitment to put the world on a cost-effective emissions trajectory that is compatible with, and ensures we meet, our 2oC objective. This is what Paris is all about.

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