Europe becomes second party to lodge Paris climate action commitment

Climate Action Network released the following statement upon the release of Europe's commitment towards the Paris agreement on climate change today. 

European environment ministers have today agreed on the EU’s first climate action commitment towards the Paris agreement. The pledge translates its previously announced target to reduce carbon pollution by at least 40% by 2030. After Switzerland, the EU will be the second party in the world to lodge its plan to speed up the transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy with the UN. Commitments from other major countries including the United States and Mexico are expected later this month. Together, these pledges will signal the start of what will be the world’s first collective step on climate action. 

Europe has in many ways been spearheading the global transition, and it has only last week presented a domestic energy strategy that makes clear that Europe’s move towards a decarbonized economy is well underway. That’s why some observers want Europe’s first offer to go further in harnessing progress towards a fossil fuel phase out and Europe’s vision to be the world leader in renewable energy. For example, Denmark has already committed to make 100% of their electricity supply renewable and party leaders in the UK have committed to phase out coal. Accelerating this transition makes sense because it can deliver more and better jobs, improved public health and more robust economies.

Today’s announcement leaves open the tricky question of how to deal with forests when counting emission reductions. If not handled well, accounting rules could dilute the EU’s commitment. Progressive Member States are working to reach a decision that ensures environmental integrity and retains ambition. Furthermore, despite calling for countries to renew their pledges under the Paris agreement every five years, the EU does not outline a 2025 target in its offer.

The EU’s plan stayed silent on the amount of additional support they'd provide to developing countries who are expected to take their own climate action under the Paris agreement. Scaling up support will be vital if we're to secure a comprehensive global climate agreement in Paris in December that builds resilient communities and helps vulnerable people cope with unavoidable climate impacts. In a bid to shore up Europe’s leadership on climate, European foreign ministers can step up and explicitly outline their offer to help communities adopt renewable energy and adapt to climate change.

Undoubtedly, this offer will not be the final word from Europe on climate action towards the Paris agreement. Indeed, the EU’s pledge document says it looks forward to working with other countries to find “ways to collectively increase ambition further”. And European NGOs will continue to push member states to do more to unlock the “at least” part of their 2030 commitment.  The European Commission has already outlined plans to hold a conference in November to review collective commitments, providing the impetus for all countries to consider what more they can do to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. To give that agreement a smoother landing, Europe can reassert itself as a leader on climate diplomacy giving countries confidence in the collective steps we’re taking on climate action.

Contact: Ria Voorhaar
Head - International Communications Coordination 
mobile: +49 157 3173 5568

 
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CAN input to post-2015 declaration

To emphasise the need for ambitious action in the short, medium and long-term, Climate Action Network recommends that the declaration on post-2015 sustainable development includes:

1. To include a reference to crucial goals for the tomorrow we want: “to avoid the worst effects of climate change we must phase out carbon emissions and phase in 100% renewable energy with sustainable energy access for all” with the possible addition “as early as possible, but not later than 2050”

2. Further include paragraph 8 of the preamble to the Open Working Group report to signpost to the UNFCCC process, especially the following parts:  underscoring “that the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, with a view to accelerating the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions; [recalling] that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change provides that parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. […] having a likely chance of holding the increase in global average temperature below [2°C, or] 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

EC kick starts 2015 climate pledge wave with draft proposal but more work ahead of Europe

Climate Action Network provided the following comment on the releasse of the EC's Energy Union package today. 

The European Commission has today published a proposal on how to flesh out the EU's commitment towards the Paris agreement on climate change as part of a package outlining Europe's vision for energy and climate issues. 

Building off it's previously announced target to reduce carbon pollution by at least 40% by 2030, the EC is the first party to attempt to translate its pledge for presentation to the UNFCCC after after last year's major climate negotiations in Lima gave countries guidance on the information to be presented.  While being the first off the mark is cause for applause, European NGOs will be working with EU member states to improve the transparency and quality of the EC's proposal before a version of it goes to the bloc's environment ministers next week. 

Moving forward, the EU will need to bring to life the "at least" part of their climate action commitment. Countries like Denmark have already committed to make 100% of their electricity supply renewable because they know that such policies can deliver more and better jobs, improved public health and more prosperous economies.  

The EC's draft proposal was silent on the amount of additional support they'd provide to developing countries who are expected to take their own climate action under the Paris agreement. Scaling up support will be vital if we're to secure a comprehensive global climate agreement in Paris in December that builds resilient communities and helps vulnerable people. Developing countries in particular will be looking for the EU to be more explicit in coming months on how it will help  communities adapt to climate change.

The EC's move today will kick off a wave of pledges from countries over the course of the year - all of which will add up to the first collective signal that the world is moving out of fossil fuels and embracing the renewable energy era.  All eyes will now turn to other developed countries who need to submit their commitments by the end of March.  The EC has also outlined plans to hold a review collective commitments in November providing the impetus for all countries to consider what more they can do to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels on the eve of the Paris Climate Summit. 
 

Contact: 

Ria Voorhaar - +49 157 317 355 68, rvoorhaar @ climatenetwork.org 

UN climate talks in Geneva close adopting a draft text but much political work remains ahead

The UN climate talks in Geneva have closed today with an air of optimism having made progress towards a new agreement that is due to be signed in Paris at the end of the year. The draft agreement is on track to signal an end to fossil fuel emissions with both Jamaica and Switzerland adding their voices to the idea of a long term goal.1 

Climate Action Network members made the following comments on the closure of the UN session:

It's good news countries have given a stamp of approval for a new draft version of the climate agreement that will be the basis of negotiations through the year and that it features a wide range of options to deal with mitigation and to provide support to help developing countries prepare for climate impacts including a loss and damage mechanism.  

There's been a seachange in the dynamics here thanks to the open and consultative approach of the Co-Chairs.  Countries also came ready and willing to work.  The spirit of Geneva needs to be kept alive, as we move to on to deal with crunch issues like the need to scale up financial support for action and how to treat richer and poorer countries fairly, and loss and damage - which has the potential to be a make or break issue for Paris.  

Julie-Anne Richards, Climate Justice Programme  

All eyes must be on political leaders now, as they are the single most important influence that will shape the final outcome of a new global climate deal in Paris later this year.  

There are important political moments outside of the UN climate negotiation process – at both ministerial and Heads of State level - on the road to Paris where they can demonstrate their intentions, such as the G7, the G20 meetings, and the SDG Summit.

 The first test of political will and influence inside the negotiating process will come in the period from March to June when countries announce their plans to reduce emissions and, we hope, provide financial resources for the post-2020 period.

Tasneem Essop, WWF head of delegation to the UNFCCC

As the talks here in Geneva come to a close, people around the world are taking part in Global Divestment Day, a worldwide effort to move money out of the fossil fuel industry and into a clean energy future. 

That's what these negotiations need to do, as well: send a clear signal to investors that the age of fossil fuels is coming to an end.

Jamie Henn, Strategy and Communications Director. 350.org

1. CAN is calling for a complete phase out of fossil fuel emissions and the phase in of 100% renewable energy by 2050 with sustainable energy access for all. 

Homework between now and Bonn

The Geneva session ends today—step one on the road to Paris. Ten months and just three more negotiating sessions to go!  The world is eagerly awaiting an international agreement that represents a turning point and brings us significantly closer to keeping warming below 1.5°C, ensures protection for the most vulnerable by ramping up adaptation to climate change,  and helps countries cope with loss and damage — the impacts of climate change that go beyond adaptation.

ECO looks forward to continuing the collegial atmosphere here in Geneva at the next session in Bonn, building on what we are sure will be frequent formal and informal consultations, within groups and between groups, over the next three months. Of course, Parties, listening to your commitment to transparency, civil society expects to be engaged in these discussions and is ready to provide constructive input.

So how can Parties best use the time between now and Bonn?  First and foremost, they must talk to each other, so that they come to Bonn with a clearer understanding of what each others’ proposals mean, where they see options for “editorial streamlining”, and how to maximise ambition in the Paris agreement.

Differentiation

The elements text is peppered with options for differentiation, in which “developed”countries are required to do one thing and “developing” countries are required to do another. In practice, there are two matters at stake here: (1) should there be multiple groups that have different requirements for target types, finance obligations, and reporting requirements? and (2) how do we determine, numerically, when countries are doing their fair shares in terms of domestic mitigation on the one hand and international means of implementation on the other?

On the first question, national fair shares on mitigation and finance should be judged in terms of a basket of equity indicators: adequacy, responsibility, capability, adaptation need, and development need. For the second question, we’d like to hear from the Parties. Should the existing Annexes be kept? Kept but not operationalised? Redefined as dynamic annexes that are based on equity indicators, as in the Ethiopian proposal? Should we introduce more groups, as in the Brazilian proposal? Or should we just give up on having any overarching grouping system, and accept that we’re in a purely self-differentiated world (which seems to be the default path that we are on)? It’s clear to ECO that a constructive discussion is needed on these issues at the Bonn session in June.

Adaptation and loss and damage

There are plenty of good proposals in the text on guiding principles, the global adaptation goal, the link between mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage, national contributions and their communications, and institutional arrangements on loss and damage. Parties should spend the next few months making sure they understand these proposals better. Perhaps a Google hangout on the proposed institutional arrangements on loss and damage is in order?

As regular readers will have noted, ECO has spent some time this week emphasising the importance of both adaptation and loss and damage in the Paris agreement. When the schedule and focus of informal meetings between now and Paris is being decided, the importance of adaptation and loss and damage should be fully reflected.

There are several events in the weeks to ahead where Parties can build further consensus on these issues, including the April meeting in Bonn where LDCs and other countries come together to take stock of progress on their National Adaptation Plans, as well as the first meeting of the Warsaw Loss and Damage Mechanism Executive Committee.  When putting forward their INDCs, Parties should outline their adaptation plans and the support required to implement them.

Mitigation

In order to get us on a pathway compatible with keeping warming below 1.5°C, we need cycles and timeframes that will help to increase ambition over time. ECO recommends a five-year cycle for mitigation linked to a cycle for support, as well as regular, robust reviews, all guided by a clearly defined long-term goal.

And as any regular ECO reader will know, increasing ambition after 2020 is not enough to avoid dangerous climate change. We need action now, and we actually have a workstream for that purpose.

Parties should communicate to the co-chairs their priorities for the technical examination process; ECO suggests renewable energy, energy efficiency, and fossil fuel subsidies reform. The technical examination process (TEP) needs to consider concrete actions, barriers, and support needs. It is also time to start thinking about how an ambition mechanism that builds on the experiences from Workstream 2 can continue after Paris.

Finance

On climate finance, ECO is pleased that several helpful suggestions made it into the text, including five-year-cycles for setting, reviewing and updating collective targets for the provision of financial support, a requirement that developed countries and others [in a position][willing][happy] to do so contribute to achieving these targets, and that they regularly communicate what they are providing. The text also includes a proposed process through which developing countries would be enabled to identify what support they need to enhance action, again, in cycles.

Although not on the ADP agenda, many corridor conversations in Geneva circled around pre-2020 finance. Even the most stubborn developed country delegates seem to understand that clarity on the $100-billion-promise is a must-do for success in Paris.  So here’s a friendly warning: the roadmap to $100 billion must not be a cheeky accounting exercise, but must reflect a real scaling-up of public finance on top of levels that were already being provided or mobilised in 2009 when the promise was made.  ECO hopes this issue will be on the menu when finance ministers meet at the spring World Bank/IMF meetings in April, and that positive movement will be evident well before Paris — perhaps even by the June session in Bonn.

Long-Term Goal

Last, but not least, ECO expects Parties to appropriately respond to the accumulated insights coming from the conclusion of the three year-long Structured Expert Dialogue (SED). Here’s a quick summary: there is evidence for dangerous climate change even with 2°C warming, and we are not even close to on track to stay under that limit. And if you prefer, a tweet:

#TimeForClimateAction WAKE UP, PEOPLE! We are heading for a horrible climate catastrophe, and we really, really need to act.

Starting in Bonn, countries must work towards language in the Paris agreement that clearly expresses our need to phase out fossil fuel emissions by mid-century, and to build a global economy based on 100% clean, renewable energy resources. The science is clear: to stay below a temperature increase of 1.5°C, we must do no less.

So there you have it: five easy pieces. If Parties come to Bonn prepared to engage on these issues, the prospects for the deal we need in Paris are bright indeed.

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Ultimate Paris Legal Quiz

Test your knowledge about the legal form of the Paris agreement. Multilateral choices possible!

  1. Does the legal form of the agreement matter?
    a) Yes, it ensures that all Parties will fulfil their promises.
    b) Yes, otherwise the carbon market will collapse.
    c) Yes, as long as it’s possible to achieve it.
    d) Yes, because it could help countries meet the objective of the climate convention.
  2. Many Parties call for a Protocol. What is a “protocol”?
    a) An unwritten rule on how to behave, like here in Geneva or on the Internet, often referred to as ”etiquette”.
    b) An instrument tied to and often seen as extending or deepening a treaty (see Montreal Protocol to the Ozone Treaty and other well-known protocols).
    c) Something to expect in Paris, because we like the enforcement of the Kyoto Protocol.
    d) Something to expect in Paris, because we like the lack of effective compliance we have now.
  3. What would “legally binding” mean for this agreement?
    a)
    That it is written in such a way that everyone knows what to do and what to expect.
    b) That if a polluter that has to pay, it really has to pay.
    c) That the word “shall” appears more times than “will”, “should”, “can” and “may” in the text.
    d) It has provisions to ensure compliance, and is, at least in principle, judicially enforceable.
  4. Does a Party need to establish domestic climate legislation?
    a) Of course! An agreement (see 1) requires this.
    b) Of course! Parties refer to this in an agreement.
    c) Of course! So civil society can sue the state to make it comply with the obligations.
    d) No! If a Party signs and ratifies an agreement, it will always comply.

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INDCs for Parties

INDCs Image

Parties: as you return home to do your INDC homework, ECO reminds you that sequencing is important. Remember to do so on your commitments on finance, mitigation and adaptation assignments, and to do so with fairness and equity in mind. For the first batch of students with submissions due in March, your tasks are clear:

  1. Ensure that the INDC presents enough information so that you can determine the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that will be emitted over the entire commitment period. Ask yourself: “Can I tell how many tonnes my country is going to emit over this period?”. Then add more information until the answer is: “Yes!”
  2. Ensure that the type of the mitigation INDC fits your country’s profile. All developed countries capable should provide an economy wide GHG emissions carbon budget to 2025. Other countries in a position to join them should do so—the more the merrier!
  3. Ensure that the INDC provides clear and transparent information on the role of the forest and land sector. A full proof way is to count the tonnes that the atmosphere sees.
  4. For countries with high responsibility and capability, the INDC should include a finance contribution. For countries that will require financial support, the INDC should indicate financing needs.
  5. Ensure that you provide a description on how your INDC is fair and ambitious. Here’s a simple way to do this is to answer the following questions. 1) In your opinion, what’s left of the carbon budget, and is it compatible with 1.5°C and 2°C and the objective of the convention? 2) How many tonnes of this budget do you do you intend to claim? 3) Why is this your country’s fair share? Before getting too creative, reflect what would happen if other countries applied your criteria.
  6. Outline what your country is doing to cope with the ever-increasing impacts of climate change, and if you are a developing country, describe your needs for finance and capacity building to implement adaptation strategies that are up to this challenge.
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There are still new ideas under the sun – If you know where to look…

Dear delegates, after an [exhausting][exhilarating] week here in Bonn some of you might be feeling tapped out of new [ideas][text]. But ECO is here to assure you that there are some new-old and new-new ideas still out there to be taken advantage of in finance.

The UNEP Adaptation Gap report gave the full rationale for exploring these ideas. It is clear that [new] [innovative] [alternative] sources of finance offer significant potential to raise new, additional and predictable finance for adaptation and loss and damage. In fact, we could raise between USD 26 and 115 billion by 2020 from just 3 of these sources:

  • A Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) in the EU has been given a new lease on life by President Hollande, with his plan to host a meeting of 11 interested Eurozone nations this year. The opportunity is there to commit FTT revenues to the GCF.
  • A clear signal from the Paris agreement that international transport emissions must be addressed by international aviation and maritime bodies ICAO and IMO.  This could unlock new finance, whilst helping diminish a projected BAU emissions growth of up to 270% in this sector by 2050.
  • Despite 87% of auction revenues from the EU ETS going to climate finance, less than 20% of this, from just five countries, has gone to international climate finance,. This offers an opportunity to change the rules so that all allowances are auctioned, increasing total funds and committing participating countries to providing revenue to international finance.
  • The idea of a Fossil Fuel Extraction Levy, to be paid into the Loss and Damage Mechanism, offers the opportunity to raise substantial new and predictable finance from the fossil fuel industry, rather than treasury coffers, to pay for loss and damage.
  • Finally, there is the matter of the millions that could be freed from the largely dormant funds in the UNFCCC’s Sustainable Development Mechanism unit, as well as the CDM scale-up fund, and redirected either to the Adaptation Fund or towards capacity building.

Thanks to a group of forward-thinking Parties, we have the option to explore these new sources of finance in the text. We need Paris to agree to kick this effort off immediately in 2016, with a view to identifying and mobilising these alternative sources of finance by 2020, or 2025 for the sources that will take longer to come to fruition.

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The right stuff

When ECO learnt that February’s ADP session would be held in Geneva, home of the Human Rights Council, we started dreaming of how the UNFCCC could use a change of scenery (from Bonn) to agree, respect, protect, promote and fulfil human rights for all, in all climate change related actions.

Little did we know that nations of the world would actually come one step closer to fulfilling this dream, and in the very first few hours of the session too! Well done. A significant number of groups and countries; including Mexico, Uganda, Chile, the EU, Bolivia, and Tuvalu, supported the inclusion of strong language of human rights, the rights of indigenous peoples, and gender equality. This was done throughout different sections of the text including Section C which will help ensure that these principles apply to all aspects of the agreement.

Even though the engagement levels have been great from a wide array of Parties, the road to Paris is short and winding. As Parties are about to engage in the so-called streamlining exercise, remember that beyond all the legalese, climate change has profound human consequences. The lives and livelihoods of literally billions of people are riding on what comes out of this process.

ECO is hopeful that the Geneva legacy will make history, and recalls President Hollande’s words last month that COP21 will be an opportunity for “all nations of the world to take a new step in favour of human rights through the UN climate conference. It is our duty to succeed.”

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