French Greens prepare for 2015 UN climate conference in Paris


The French Greens have called on European countries to adopt a unified stance at the 2015 UN climate conference, underlining the importance of supporting Poland in its energy transition.

A gathering organised by the French Green party, called 'New Initiatives for Europe', discussed the issues of the 21th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be held in the French capital in December 2015.

Rajendra K. Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), presented the fifth scientific assessment report by his expert group, which painted a more worrying picture of climate change than the previous, 2007 version.

For international scientific experts, the temperature of the earth could rise to 4.8 degrees celsius by 2100 and the sea level could rise by about 1 metre.

Green MPs and the French minister for development, Pascal Canfin, expressed their concern at the alarming figure. "The most likely situation today is that we are not able to contain global warming below 2 degrees by the end of the century. But the good news is that according to the latest IPCC report, this goal is still in the realm of possibility," Canfin said.

The depressing findings of the IPCC's latest report did not prevent the French ecologists from highlighting several positive factors since 2009 the Copenhagen conference.

"We are now in the Obama II era. There now has a will of the president of the United States to leave a positive result on climate policy,” Canfin said.

Another important aspect for the French Greens is to maintain fairness between Northern and Southern countries when sharing the burden of reducing carbon emissions.

"If countries such as India , South Africa and Nigeria reached our CO2 levels of emissions per capita, we are headed to a temperature increase of 5 degrees," warned Canfin.

Copenhagen mistake

The French development minister called on France to avoid repeating mistakes made in 2009 UN climate change conference in Copenhagen.

"The COP 21 should not see this negotiation as a simple sharing of the burden on CO2 emissions across countries, rather we have to see this negotiation as a pact for growth, the economy, innovation and the fight against unemployment," Canfin said.

At the 2009 summit, the Danes relied heavily on the spirit of international solidarity in the fight against climate change, which has proved to be "a mistake in an international negotiation with more than 190 countries," the French minister said. Instead, Canfin said, "we need to focus on the potential benefits for each country of an ambitious climate pact".

However, Europeans will lack the credibility to advance talks at global level as long as they do not have a unified position among themselves. "In Rio, the developing countries have accused us of proposing a model for energy transition at the global level … but we have not yet established that at EU level!" said Green MEP Sandrine Bélier. "On the carbon market, we still have not managed to find a compromise. We're at an impasse," she added.

Helping Poland

Poland and its heavy reliance on coal is seen as a major stumbling block for the other EU members. The country, which is hosting the COP in November 2013, produces almost all of its energy from coal and this highly polluting energy model makes it unlikely that the country will subscribe to an ambitious EU position on reducing carbon emissions.

"It is imperative to resolve the Polish question before Paris 2015 if we want to be able to offer a strong European position," stressed Canfin.

For Poland, any transition away from coal would probably mean switching to Russian gas. "If you want to have them on board, you have to gear European funding towards helping the energy transition," the French minister said.

Canfin also mentioned the possibility of using future revenues from the European carbon market to support European countries such as Poland, whose energy mix poses problems.

The EU has adopted a binding target to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide by 20% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels and even increase the share of renewable energy in its energy mix.

The EU has set itself a legally binding goal for 2020 of reducing its CO2 emissions by 20% and increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix by the same amount, both measured against 1990 levels.

A target of a 20% increase in energy efficiency against a 2005 baseline projection has also been set but it is not legally enforceable. The low carbon roadmap in March 2011 stated that if it were met, emissions cuts would automatically rise to 25%, five percentage points above the target.

In October 2009, EU leaders endorsed a long-term target of reducing collective developed country emissions by 80-95% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. This is in line with the recommendations of the UN's scientific arm - the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - for preventing catastrophic changes to the Earth's climate.

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