EU: Time to Lead

11 June 2010

Remember the days when the EU had a clear impact on international climate negotiations? It had focused, ambitious positions, communicated well in advance before coming to the UNFCCC talks, and it was convinced of the benefits a low-carbon economy would bring to its citizens. Those were the times when the EU could act as a strong and reliable partner for any progressive coalition of Parties.

Today the EU environment ministers gather in Luxembourg to discuss ways in which the EU can take the UNFCCC talks forward. As always ECO has plenty of good ideas, and is not shy in sharing them. So, European Union, here’s what you need to do now. For starters, the EU should upgrade its reduction target well before Cancún to at least a unilateral 30% below 1990 levels by 2020 well in time before Cancún. Really, no one was impressed last year by the EU’s leverage game with the conditional pledge, which only resulted in a series of ridiculous conditional pledges from other Annex I countries.

The recent EC Communication previously highlighted in ECO shows very clearly that a 30% target is easy to achieve and is in Europe’s own economic interests, regardless of what others do. Secondly, finding friends is vital. Looking critically at the current political environment and the domestic situation in the US, the best way forward to get a comprehensive legally binding outcome – sooner rather than later – will be for the EU to seek a joint understanding with climate leaders among the developing countries. Importantly, the EU needs to clarify its continued commitment to the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol. Thirdly, the vital ingredient needed for effective progress in Cancún is clarity on financing.

To begin with, the EU would be well advised to deliver on previously made promises, such as offering full transparency of new and additional fast start finance, including member state reporting. Securing adequate and predictable funding for developing countries will enable further negotiations on three important building blocks of technology, adaptation and REDD that can – with the money available – be finalised in Cancún. The EU’s impact has been clearly evident in progressing discussions on this matter in the past. An immediate priority must be exploring the options for sources of public finance, with a view to making choices by Cancún.

In the EU, revenues from EU ETS would easily provide an important source of additional and predictable funding. Last but not least, internal divisions on hot air and LULUCF accounting rules need to be addressed in support of environmentally sound international rules under the UNFCCC.

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