Three action points to get the ball rolling after COP21

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

Protestors in Paris for the COP21 talks. [MarkDixon/Flickr]

Céline Charveriat lists three essential action points that should guide EU countries in their implementation of the Paris climate deal.

Céline Charveriat is Director for Advocacy and Campaigns at Oxfam International

When the new climate deal was gavelled in Paris, nearly every country claimed the victory, with most saying their own efforts had been key to the success. The European Union was no exception, arguing that it was the EU-supported High Ambition Coalition that saved the deal.

To be fair, thanks to the work of Commissioner Arias Cañete’s team, the Luxembourg presidency, and key member states, the EU has made a remarkable comeback since the unforgiving Copenhagen conference when it was shut out of the final negotiations.

However, if Paris is to be a turning point, the real heavy lifting starts now. All parties, including Europe, have a lot of homework to do. Limiting temperature increase to 1.5 degrees – the key demand of vulnerable countries – requires nothing short of an immediate overhaul of recent EU policies by the EU Commission, Parliament and member states with far reaching implications on the 2030 Climate and Energy package, and beyond.

When European leaders discuss the implications of COP21 on Europe’s policies at their meeting in Brussels tomorrow, they have to start putting their ‘High Ambition’ into practice, at home.

Here are three essential points to get the ball rolling.

1. Close the climate finance gap for adaptation and mobilise new funding sources

Oxfam research shows that developing countries will face costs of $500 billion per year by 2050 due to the inevitable consequences of climate change, even under a two degree scenario.  In the spirit of solidarity with its coalition partners, and to respect the COP21 decision of urging “developed country parties to scale up their level of financial support… while significantly increase adaptation finance from current levels,” the EU should lead efforts to close the adaptation gap and commit to ensure that by 2020 50 per cent of public climate finance will be provided for adaptation.

So far, developed countries rely on their aid budgets alone to provide public climate finance. This approach will falter soon: these funds are simply insufficient to make societies and communities resilient enough to rising climate disasters, leading to instability and displacement. The huge sums required cannot be met by the private sector either, as the majority of adaptation investments needed do not return a profit. The EU must therefore ensure alternative sources of finance are added.

This is a very simple task: the EU’s polluters-pays mechanism – the Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) – is a perfect tool to raise funds for the fight against climate change and its consequences. Member states simply need to adopt an EU level set aside for climate finance within the ongoing revision of the EU ETS, setting the example for new carbon pricing approaches across the world to do the same. A 10% set aside could triple European contributions to the Green Climate Fund from 2020.

2. Review the EU 2050 low carbon roadmap and increase the 2030 emissions cuts target

With the new reference in the Paris agreement to 1.5 degrees and the commitment to reach greenhouse gas emission neutrality in the second half of the century, the entire 2050 roadmap needs to be reviewed.  The EU should plan for full decarbonization by 2050 at the latest, requiring member states to turn to 100 per cent sustainable renewable energy by that year.

The pledges countries laid on the table in Paris put us in the starting blocks, but they will need to be doubled to meet the temperature goals agreed upon at the climate talks, and defended by the High Ambition Coalition. For Europe, that means going far beyond the current 40 per cent emissions cuts pledge for 2030, which looks increasingly weak when compared with commitments of others on economic competitiveness grounds, or on fairness grounds.

Already last year, the EU has achieved to reduce its emissions by 23 per cent compared to 1990, overshooting its 2020 target 6 years early. To play a leader role in the review of global mitigation efforts scheduled for 2018, the EU should prepare an improved target as well as ensure its 10 years legislative framework is dynamic enough to accommodate further increases in line with science.

3. Test all EU policies for 1.5 degrees compatibility and Sustainable Development Goal credibility

Climate protection is not only about climate policy! Transport, trade, agriculture and financial regulations of the European Union need a 1.5 degrees credibility test to make sure they support the EU’s ambition to prevent dangerous global warming. But EU actions intended to stop climate change should not come at the expense of access to land and water of vulnerable communities, for example through heavy reliance on unsustainable bio-energy. The Sustainable Development Goals that nations agreed on earlier this year in New York call on countries to ‘leave no one behind’, so European legislation should ensure this principle is held up.

These three action points could set the agenda for national governments, the Commission and the European Parliament. Anything less than putting High Ambition into practice at home would be a kick in the teeth for the vulnerable countries that stood arm in arm with the EU in the closing days of Paris.

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