EU environment ministers agreed a united stance on Friday for the bloc’s negotiating position at the December UN climate talks in Paris, which included a push for all countries to achieve “sustainable climate neutrality” by the end of the century.
In a press conference following the Environment Council meeting in Brussels, Europe’s climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said the stance would ensure the EU would not just be a “deal-taker, but a deal-maker” in Paris.
According to the meeting conclusions, they agreed to press for a deal that would call for all countries to collectively peak their emissions by 2020, and reduce emissions by 50% under 1990 levels by 2050.
Arias Canete said this was the equivalent of a 60% cut under 2010 levels, a target the Commission had suggested in February.
He said the ministers agreed the deal should feature a “stocktake” of national efforts every five years, examining whether the pledges were on course to meeting the collective ambition on emission cuts.
“This will fill the gap between reduction targets and the long term goal,” said Luxembourg’s environment minister Carole Dieschbourg, who chaired the talks as her nation holds the rotating EU presidency.
If agreed in Paris, the first of these five-year reviews would occur in 2025, five years out from the emission target the EU has emphasised in its INDC of a domestic cut of at least 40% on 1990 levels.
But the document made no reference to whether the bloc would be willing to deepen its 2030 goal and stressed that while the review should not allow countries to fall behind previous levels of commitment, it could also merely ask nations to “resubmit existing commitments”.
“As climate change is speeding up and getting worse, it’s regrettable that EU Environment Ministers failed to spell out how the EU intends to increase its own climate and energy targets,” said Genevieve Pons Deladriere, director of the European policy office of environmental campaigners WWF.
Dieschbourg said the long-term targets would put the already agreed global goal to limit worldwide temperature rises to 2C “into operational language providing a clear signal to investors, business and others that the transition to a climate resilient world is inescapable.”
The agreement also proposed that climate adaptation be a central part of the Paris agreement.
Greenpeace said the agreement was weak and the EU should have been clearer on committing to phasing out its own fossil fuel use.
The wording could in theory allow nations to continue to burn fossil fuels by 2100, either burying the resulting emissions underground or offsetting the discharges using technologies that suck greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
“Europe can and should do more to speed-up the energy transition towards a renewable-based system and commit to phase out fossil fuels at home. In Paris, the EU should present a united front to support a long term global goal to phase out fossil fuels by 2050,” said Jiri Jerabek, Greenpeace’s EU energy policy adviser, in a statement.
Arias Canete and EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker have both warned that the EU would not be prepared to sign a weak deal in Paris.
The EU has long claimed a leadership role at UN climate talks, but at last year’s summit in Lima it declined to reject the final deal despite losing key demands to ensure that national pledges were comprehensive and that they face UN scrutiny ahead of this year’s summit.
CARBON MARKETS PUSH
As expected, the EU ministers agreed to a previously drafted paragraph stressing that the Paris agreement should allow for the international use of carbon markets and set in place a work plan to have detailed rules that govern them completed by 2017.
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.”
The propose “the adoption of a comprehensive package of substantive decisions, in addition to a technical work programme, at the Paris Conference to further develop rules, modalities and procedures on inter alia transparency and accountability of mitigation commitments, including for the land-use sector, and on the international use of markets, to be completed by 2017, in order to enable the implementation of the Paris Agreement.”
The EU added that rules on the transparency and accountability of national mitigation commitments, including land use and the international use of markets, be completed by 2017.
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.
Jeff Swartz of carbon market lobby group IETA welcomed the inclusion of the paragraph and said without it the Paris agreement “would lead to less ambition by the numerous countries which seek carbon reduction abatement opportunities outside of their domestic borders”.
“It would also send a signal to the private sector that the UN process has failed in its attempts to put a price on carbon,” he added.
By Ben Garside – email@example.com