Fossil of the Day

8 December 2018



Does anyone know what all the fuss is in Katowice? It’s the 24th conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Just checking that you all know what you are actually attending.

Unfortunately, when negotiations on climate finance accounting opened on Tuesday, Switzerland stated that according to their reading, the terms “New and Additional” (named so due to the new and additional changes climate change poses) did not make it into the Paris Agreement. Why is this important? Developed countries provide new and additional finance, which is required by developing countries to make action possible.

The basic challenge, and argument, is that if climate funds are not new and additional, developed countries can just relabel ordinary Official Development Assistance (i.e. ‘double” or ‘triple” dipping). That means that there is a risk that other development topics such as human rights, gender, education, health care, are getting less attention. And, there should also be a concern for Least Developed Countries (LDCs). There is a general trend where climate finance is focused on mitigation in emerging economies. That means that funds can be shifted from education in LDCs to mitigation in China, for example. But hey, you could argue that it’s not only Switzerland!? Aren’t there other rich states who are in favour of re-shuffling and relabeling existing aid?

And, indeed, other developed countries (many from the EU) have also been blockers on this issue throughout the week, but Switzerland has been the most outspoken.

The need for climate action calls for increased attention, and this additional need should be addressed with additional funds, to ensure that no money is lost!

But alas, there is also a moral aspect! Climate change is caused by countries with big emissions, and consequently these countries should also pay for the additional challenges countries with low emissions are facing. “The polluter pays principle” is still relevant and “new and additional” is a way to ensure that it is operationalized. Switzerland (and others) attempt this week to annul the New and Additional requirement translates into: The richest country in the world leading on taking development assistance away from the poorest peoples – to use it to comply with their obligation at the UNFCCC!


Today Germany was questioned by parties at the Multilateral Assessment on its progress towards emission targets. In its written answers, as well as in announcements from the government, Germany admits that it will miss the 2020 target, by as much as 8%! Their plans for moving forward? Giving up. Not even the urgent warnings from the IPCC this year could make Germany change its mind and get moving on pre-2020 action at home!

The 40% target was committed to ten years ago. Unfortunately, German governments since that time have not taken bold steps to reduce coal power plants and transport emissions. While Germany did install a lot of wind turbines and solar panels, it did not reduce its fleet of old and dirty coal power plants that are running day and night. During these many, many years, coal companies in Germany have continued to burn coal, destroy villages by enlarging lignite pits, and polluting the environment. The government is now facing legal cases for not reaching its 2020 target, which have been raised by affected people and supported by NGOs.

One year ago, at COP 23 in Bonn, chancellor Merkel announced that Germany would address a phase-out of coal, but here we are one year later, and not one single concrete measuWre has been taken! Instead, in an amazing display of inaction, the government installed a Commission to make proposals for a coal phase-out and on how to deal with the 2020 target. Wow. So incredibly helpful!

The report on the 2020 target was due before COP 24, but conveniently, shortly before the COP it was delayed by the government to next year. Shocker. Germany is here with essentially nothing to offer emission reductions at home.

If Germany, as the biggest European economy does not act, the entirety of EU ambition is at stake. Given the failure in CO2 reduction, Germany is unwilling to accept a higher EU 2030 target. The same is true for the net zero target for 2050 for the EU that the EU Commission presented as its preferred option in a communication last week. While countries like France, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and others are welcoming net zero in 2050, Germany remains silent and is also not opposing further subsidies for coal power plants in Europe in the form of capacity payments. Get a move on, Germany! Those targets will only get farther away €“ stop playing games and wasting the planet’s precious time!


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