EU nations are struggling to agree wording on how strongly the bloc should signal its readiness to deepen its 2030 emissions target under a five-year UN review of national pledges, but appears set to push for the international use of carbon markets to be included in the global deal.
The effort comes as part of a move to firm up the EU’s negotiating position ahead of the December UN climate talks, due to be signed off by all EU environment ministers at a Council meeting on Friday.
“A group of delegations is opposed to including a signal in the joint negotiating position that the EU retains the possibility to increase the level of mitigation ambition, including through the use of international market mechanisms, in the context of a global climate agreement,” according to draft conclusions of the text obtained by Politico on Tuesday.
While the text represents an attempt at agreeing a negotiating stance in the global talks consisting of almost 200 nations, the wrangling is a sign that some EU nations are uneasy about readily committing to deeper ambition.
Last October, all EU leaders agreed that the bloc will cut emissions domestically by at least 40% under 1990 levels by 2030, which was re-emphasised in the EU’s INDC submitted in March.
The inclusion of “at least” implies the EU could be prepared to deepen the goal, possibly with the use of international carbon credits, should other economies also make comparable commitments.
A deeper 2030 goal would almost certainly mean tighter annual emission caps in the EU ETS and higher carbon prices, but allowing international credits would ease the supply squeeze while lowering company compliance costs.
Coal-dependent Poland is also pushing for a clause to call for a “long term vision of global carbon neutrality” that could allow room for the EU to outsource emission cuts and rely on technology to extract GHG gases from the air rather than shift to clean fuels, Reuters reported, citing EU diplomats.
Another major sticking point is on whether the EU, in its call for reviews of national pledges every five years, should stress whether all parties with 10-year long pledges need to participate in the reviews and whether it should push for countries to be barred from tabling commitments that are less ambitious than their previous goals.
Green group coalition CAN Europe pointed out in a report on Tuesday that the EU’s reframing of its emission target as a linear path to 2030, rather than an average level as in its 2020 goal, could leave it open to accusations of this so-called backsliding as it will allow the bloc to emit some 5 billion tonnes of CO2e more than if the old calculation method was used.
An international mechanism to review pledges every five years would require the EU to conduct its first review in 2025, five years ahead of its 2030 target, though there is huge uncertainty over the level of international scrutiny that could be brought to bear over the process.
In an address to the EU Parliament’s environment committee on Tuesday, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres offered some clarity of what the review might consist of.
“My sense is that current INDCs will be accepted for whatever period they are for but there will be a collective and agreed periodicity to the review. I think (parties) are coming around to the five year periodicity which gives the opportunity to ratchet up at the review period, as opposed to the ten,” Figueres said.
“It is likely to be a facilitative agreement, rather than a punitive one … I’m not sure whether there will be an obligation there,” she added.
Giza Gaspar Martins, chair of the negotiating group of LDCs, on Monday said that there was quite a bit of pushback by some governments over the idea of introducing into the agreement punitive measures aimed at countries that may not fulfil their INDC pledges.
Speaking to reporters in London, he added that there appeared to be more traction for the pact to instead feature incentives, though nothing concrete had been proposed.
CARBON MARKETS PUSH
One part of the EU text set to be signed off on Friday is a paragraph stressing that the Paris agreement should allow for the international use of carbon markets, which was not flagged as controversial by officials.
It said: “The Paris agreement should allow for the international use of markets subject to the application of robust common accounting rules which ensure that the environmental integrity and the integrity of the mitigation commitments are maintained and double-counting is avoided; and provide for market mechanisms which promote scaled-up and cost-effective mitigation action entailing a net contribution to global mitigation efforts and contributing to sustainable development.”
Observers are divided over whether a direct reference to markets in the main Paris agreement would dictate whether governments will be able to use international carbon markets beyond 2020.
Some say rules could be agreed at subsequent negotiations, with business lobby group IETA pushing for wording to encourage nations to develop markets as part of their mitigation actions.
By Ben Garside and Mike Szabo – firstname.lastname@example.org