The ambitious aim in Paris is to arrive at a new legally binding global agreement to fight climate change aggravated by human activity. The Kyoto Protocol expired in 2012 and our political leaders are finally preparing for a new global deal in the fight against rising sea levels and global temperatures.
We have been witnessing a surge in global climate change awareness. There have been protest marches, countless websites promoting awareness and cities pledging to prepare for the adverse effects of climate change. It has high priority on the political agenda in Europe, other major economies and in the countries most vulnerable to climate change.
The overall targets
It is an ambitious endeavor to reach an agreement that is legally binding to all parties, including United States and China. The ultimate goal is to limit global temperature increase to below 2 °C relative to the pre-industrial era. The UNIPCC (United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has indicated that in order to stay below 2 °C increase, global emissions should be reduced by 40-70% by 2050 (compared to 2010). The overall global target is to reach zero emissions by 2100. This is an enormous challenge.
It is first of all necessary to reach a common agreement within the EU. In October 2014, EU leaders endorsed a target to reduce EU’s domestic emissions by 40% in 2030 (compared to 1990). In line with its long-term target of reducing emissions by 80-95% by 2050 – it is to be translated to the EU contribution which will be presented to the UNIPCC within the first quarter of this year.
The Lima climate talks held in December 2014 were supposed to set a clear plan to keep discussion on track in order to reach a final global agreement at the Paris summit in 2015. The results left to be desired and many concerns are still in the air. The main concern for poorer countries is of course the financial impact and support from wealthy countries for the implementation of the agreement.
The debate at the European Parliament
The general mood at the debate held between the MEPs, the Council and the Commission conveyed a sense of urgency from the EU side. Zanda Kalinina-Lukaševica, a representative of the Latvian EU Council presidency stated that the Council is committed to stimulating debate and submitting the EU proposal to the UNIPCC within 1st quarter of 2015. The expectation and hope from the EU is that other major economies will follow Europe’s example. Ms Kalinina-Lukaševica emphasizes there are still obstacles to overcome and that global vision is yet to emerge. The Environmental Council in March will be the first opportunity to discuss the EU expectations and strategy.
The commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete, is tasked with proposing legislation for the implementation of EU 2030 climate and energy framework and steering negotiations with the European Parliament and national governments. According to commissioner Cañete the main issues surrounding the future agreement are: an unclear legal format for the agreement, the funding of the climate change action and the national financing for the goals set by each country.
Clearly these are the most fundamental issues around any agreement and they will become a challenge for the EU in 2015.
Clash between EU member states
Among the many MEPs who emphasized solidarity and cooperation within Europe for climate change agreement there were also dissenting voices. Especially forthright were the Polish MEPs Marek Jurek and Andrzej Duda from the eurosceptic ECR (European Conservatives and Reformist Group) at the European Parliament. They stressed that the Polish economy will inevitably collapse due to the target emissions requirements. They spoke out for the poorer Easter European states that will be hardest hit by new requirements to reach the EU contribution targets. Member states with heavy industry and less money to invest into new technologies are in a definite disadvantage. According to MEP Andrzej Duda, the EU economy will lose even more competitiveness as the rest of the world does not agree with the current EU reduction plans for the next decades.
One of the main concerns of climate talks that have been happening for over 20 years is the clear division between the wealthy and poor nations around the world. To this respect, the opinions expressed at the European Parliament were not new. It is clear that many less wealthy member states will not go along with the EU-wide plans if the stand to suffer greatly. Support to poorer EU member states should be clearly stated and guaranteed.
What is next?
It is decided that in 3 months’ time all countries including EU member states must bring forward their national plans for the purpose of forging an agreement. Without clear proposals there will be nothing to discuss at the Paris summit. With less than 10 months to go there is a lot of work ahead. It is a difficult task and there are no guarantees that the rest of the world will follow. To have the desired effect, the new agreement should be legally binding and accepted by everyone.