EU ministers on Friday (18 September) agreed upon the bloc’s negotiating mandate for the upcoming COP21 talks, including a 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 over 1990 levels, overcoming resistance from eastern member states.
EURACTIV exclusively revealed on Wednesday (16 September) that the environment ministers would reach a deal, despite the objections of countries such as Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
Poland’s elections next month complicated the debate, as the right-wing Law and Justice party has been campaigning on a promise to resist EU environment law and protect the coal industry.
But Friday’s talks were quicker than expected, as EU officials said Poland realised it was isolated and agreed to word changes that made no substantial difference.
The haggling to accommodate Poland also switched the word decarbonisation with “climate neutrality”. Polish officials said that allowed for technological solutions, such as carbon capture and storage, to do some of the work, reducing the need to change the fuel mix.
“We stand ready to conclude an ambitious, vast and binding global climate deal, and we will settle for nothing less,” EU Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete told a press conference in Brussels.
French Environment Minister Ségolène Royal told reporters that the meeting in Brussels recommitted to the 40% emissions cuts by 2030 over 1990 levels.
She also said the environment ministers agreed that the planned UN accord should incorporate five-yearly reviews to ratchet up efforts to fight climate change.
Cañete added that the EU would push for emissions to peak by 2020 at the latest, and have them reduced by at least 50 percent by 2050, compared to the 1990 baseline.
“They should be near zero or below by 2100,” he added.
He said the EU goals were consistent with those of the UN which seeks to keep global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels, which scientists see as key to avoiding catastrophic drought, floods and sea level rises.
“It’s a fair deal. It will get everyone on board,” Canete added.
He said it offered a long-term outlook for business, markets and lawmakers.
Despite the breakthrough, questions remain over how much time EU negotiators have to gain the necessary support from developing countries to deliver a robust enough deal.
Green campaigners held a “climate tug of war” stunt outside the meeting, to highlight the pressure that the fossil fuel industry was putting on the EU. They welcomed the agreement, but warned that there needed to be much more detail in how the bloc would reach the 40% pledge.