EU climate plan adds momentum to global energy transition

EU climate plan

Creative Commons: Rock Cohen, 2008

The European Commission has pushed climate and energy further up the political agenda, revealing its blueprint for the global climate deal, which is due to be agreed in Paris in December.

In a document released today, says governments should target greenhouse gas emission cuts of 60% on 2010 levels by 2050, with countries belonging to the G20 taking the lead.

It also laid out the EU’s own contribution of “at least” 40% carbon cuts on 1990 levels of by 2030, a decision backed by member states last October and set to be confirmed in March.

The proposed climate pact, due to be settled in Paris, should be in the form of a legally binding Protocol agreed under the UN, says the Commission.

It wants the UN to put in place a review system to analyse progress every five years and assess whether the world will avoid warming 2C above pre-industrial levels, above which scientists believe climate change will be unmanageable.

Jason Anderson, Head of EU Climate and Energy Policy at WWF European Policy Office said:

The EU is painting a pretty impression of the Paris Protocol, but with a limited palette – its own commitments are in muted shades of grey. While it is contributing positively to a view of the overall process and design, Europe doesn’t deliver the needed clarity or ambition to be in line with its equitable share of global responsibility.

Along with its plan for global climate deal, the EU also published its hotly awaited Energy Union strategy today, which puts energy efficiency, renewables and emission reductions at the heart of Europe’s energy plans.

The very fact that a major bloc of countries like the EU is prioritising a plan to move away from fossil fuels and put greater emphasis on renewables and energy efficiency is further proof that major economies are shifting away from dirty fossil fuels and towards clean renewable energies.

As the first country or region in the world to come forward with a vision of what the global climate deal in Paris should look like, and the part it should play in this, the EU is also positioning itself as a climate leader.

But the plans are not perfect, as there is considerable emphasis on gas and a failure to properly tackle the question of climate finance, for example.

Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network Europe said:

Legally binding outcome of the Paris negotiations will provide greater certainty that countries deliver their commitments. At the same time, the Commission does not specify Europe’s contributions to bridging the gaps in international climate finance and short-term emission reductions. Without addressing these, getting any deal in Paris will be very difficult. The amount of greenhouse gases that the EU will be allowed to emit after 2020 remains unclear. The proposal does not close potential loopholes which can dilute the EU’s 2030 emissions reduction target by up to 4.5%, according to conservative estimations.

Experts and observers warn that there is room for improvement in this promising first offer.

With higher ambition levels on emission reductions, mobilising more finance for climate action, and spending much less on fossil fuel infrastructure – they say – Europe would be in a better position to help negotiate a strong outcome in December.

EU ministers will now discuss these plans, and NGOs are calling on them to go further.

This is necessary to keep global warming below 2C and to ensure that vulnerable populations inside and outside Europe are safe from the ravages of climate change.

Liz Gallagher, E3G climate diplomacy programme leader said:

The Commission’s contribution to the INDC is an important milestone, but only the opening gambit for Paris.  There is a deal to be done in Paris, and Europe will need to work with others to go beyond their current levels of ambition. European leaders have committed to avoid dangerous climate change, and so this isn’t the final word on the matter.

With more and more citizens, businesses, investors and scientists demanding and leading this growing energy transition, governments can now do the responsible thing and speed it up by presenting strong and ambitious plans, in order to manage the climate risks facing their nations and vulnerable people worldwide.

The EU has set that ball rolling. Now other governments are also expected to present their offers for the Paris agreement and to outline their role in making the global energy transition just and orderly.

“We have seen encouraging signals since September’s Climate Week NYC and UN Climate Summit, with businesses and sub-national governments highlighting the benefits of the incoming low carbon economy,” said Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group.

“And the historic US-China deal has added spin to this momentum. Following the EU’s early INDC submission, now it’s the rest of the world’s turn to show how true climate leadership is done.”

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