EXPLAINER: How the EU and Europe must contribute to achieving a progressive COP27 outcome

Climate action

The UN Climate Summit COP27 is just around the corner. As always, it has to address a range of issues to solve the biggest challenge humanity faces, but some will be more in focus and more defining for the outcome than others. Multifaceted crises such as the climate emergency, COVID-19, and the fossil fuel and financial crisis are and should undoubtedly be the leiv-motive for European countries and the EU in the forthcoming climate talks.

Formally starting on 6th November in Sharm-el-Sheikh (Egypt), many delegates, in particular those from so-called developing countries, will arrive days earlier for preparatory meetings of different country groupings. There have been intense preparations already, with numerous technical workshops and other meetings having taken place in the last months since the UNFCCC session in Bonn in June as part of the road to Sharm-el-Sheikh. This included two meetings with the Heads of Delegations in September and October which addressed particularly important issues of climate loss and damage, finance and mitigation, as well as the so-called PreCOP session early October in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

The EU recently concluded its formal COP27 position development process through Environment Council (ENVI) Conclusions on 24th of October and the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) Conclusions on Climate Finance on 4th of October. This has been complemented by the European Parliament’s resolution. CAN Europe shared its key policy demands in letters with ENVI and ECOFIN ahead of those meetings, in order to stress the urgency and level of ambition needed in key areas, in parallel but in close collaboration with CAN International demands, laid out in the new Annual Policy Document.

While the positions formally agreed on by the EU form a solid basis in terms of covering many issues on the COP27 agenda, there is inbuilt flexibility in the position for the EU to operate in the negotiations, and progressive Member States should continue to push for the highest ambition for the EU to contribute positively to progressive outcomes. Ahead of the kick-off of most of the negotiations is the Heads of States segment on 7-8 November, where over 30 Heads of States and Governments from European countries are confirmed, including European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen. They have a key responsibility to use this moment to set out how they will be stepping up climate action and support for vulnerable countries. But, how should the EU and Europe contribute to achieving a progressive COP27 outcome?


Loss and damage takes centre stage at COP27 as climate impacts hit harder 

Even while countries seek to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change, we all need to live with its consequences and the losses and damages it creates. But not all countries are affected by dangerous climate change equally. Countries in the Global South, who have historically contributed the least to rising emissions, are in the frontline due to geographic vulnerability and have less resources to protect people, infrastructure, nature etc. Devastating climate disasters like the floods in Pakistan and Nigeria, and combination of drought with food insecurity pushing people to the brink of famine in the Horn of Africa, clearly show that there is a need for new and additional finance to address the losses and damages caused by climate change. For the first time in the history of climate negotiations and after great pressure from developing countries and civil society, it seems that the topic of “loss and damage finance” will be included in the official agenda. 

Countries are divided, but should agree and lay out the process of how to raise new finance, in addition to explore further contributions from the countries mainly responsible for emissions. Positively, EU’s COP27 conclusions reflect a shift in the block’s position to supporting this agenda item. This is an important first step, but fails to recognise the need to explore modalities for a loss and damage finance facility and new and additional funding, two aspects which the European Parliament has taken a more progressive stand on. Overall, countries in Europe and the EU should agree and actively support that finance to address Loss and Damage is included on the official agenda and that a Loss and Damage Finance Facility is formally established at COP27. This will also be a strategic move to work closely with vulnerable developing countries for an overall ambitious outcome.


Get on 1.5°C track to limit the impacts of climate change

The world has already warmed up to 1.2°C and we are heading to a 2.7°C increase by the end of the century, which would push humanity into climate breakdown while increasing the needs to adapt to climate change and address its losses and damages. The latest report by the UNFCCC Secretariat synthesising the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), or countries’ commitments to reduce emissions, underlines that we are not on track. Even with implementation of all plans formally on the table, we could still end up at a catastrophic level of warming of 2.5°C above pre-industrial levels this century. The consequences of such a temperature increase, even surpassing the 1.5°C warming limit set in the Paris Agreement, will be disastrous, as many studies have shown. The NDC report presented a small glimmer of progress, as last year’s edition projected an even slower decline of emissions. However, the EU failed to make an additional positive contribution by not (yet) increasing its own emission reduction target, with CAN Europe seeing the need to go further. 

Science shows us that it is possible for the EU to achieve at least 65% emission cuts by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2040, which is necessary to achieve the Paris Agreement goals. Taking bold climate action is much cheaper than having to deal with its impacts. And this is also a matter of global fairness for Europe, one of the biggest emitters historically, as other analyses have shown. After the ‘Fit for 55 climate and energy legislation negotiations the mandate contained in the EU’s COP27 conclusions on updating the NDC is vague and leaves room for interpretation. The rest of the world would benefit from individual EU member states making clear in their opening statements that they will put all efforts into higher EU ambition to be formally put on the table as soon as possible, ideally still during COP27 or at least before the end of the year. 

There is no time to delay emission reduction to ensure we limit temperature rise to 1.5°C, which science and multiple scenarios show is not utopia. The Pre-2030 mitigation work programme is a key deliverable of COP27, where in particular developed countries and other major emitters, and especially the G20, must take additional steps to bring us on a Paris Agreement pathway. Key CAN International demands on the mitigation work programme can be found in the new Annual Policy Document. The EU and other richer European countries will be essential players to deliver strong progress. They must ensure that internal policy positioning and financing ahead of COP27 is aligned with progressive developing countries. 

The EU and its Member States  will also have to make publicly clear that it continues to be committed to its own emission reduction plans and legislation, such as the European Climate Law and the initiatives under the European Green Deal. It will have to assure other parties that some of the adverse trends we are seeing in the move away from Russian fossil fuel imports, such as bringing coal power plants back into operation – are of a short-term temporary nature, that its impacts are partially contained by an emission trading system though not automatically leading to overall higher emissions, and there will be no reversal from the entered path towards phasing out coal and other fossil fuels while shifting to 100% renewable energy by 2040. We expect to hear this from each and every European Head of State and EU representatives attending! Obviously, there will also be an eye on the EU’s cooperation with other countries such as the neighbouring continent of Africa, where renewable energy and energy efficiency need to be prioritised over concerning new fossil fuel deals, avoiding gasing Africa. “Stop Europe’s dash for gas in Africa” is therefore a wholly appropriate new campaign call targeting EU leaders. Unfortunately, Egypt’s reported push for gas as a climate solution might be detrimental to the reputation and credibility of the COP.


Enhancing and increasing climate finance

Developed countries are not delivering on the commitment (made more than a decade ago) to

provide $100 billion annual climate finance from 2015 to 2020 to support developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. They might not even meet it until 2023, not least because several developed countries are off-track in delivering on their recent pledges. This has been documented further by the Climate Finance roadmap update report released on 28 October. While this report provides some more details on recent pledges for example to increase adaptation finance, it falls short of providing a clear way forward in terms of ensuring the goal to double adaptation finance will be met by 2025, and that the 100bn goal will be delivered on average across 2020-2025. 

Not surprisingly, there is not a uniform picture within the developed countries, and some European countries are performing better than others on climate finance. For example, a report released by CARE on assessing how new and additional climate finance has been over the last years, found that Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden are in the top group of countries with a relatively good performance. France, Italy and Spain and some others are in the group with weakest performance, and some other bigger contributors, such as Denmark, Germany or the Netherlands are in the middle category. Thus, in the sense of following those who lead by example, there is the potential for many European countries to step up. The more finance dedicated to mitigate and adapt to climate change, the least funds will be needed to address climate impacts. However, the latest numbers on collective EU climate finance published 28 October worryingly show a slight drop in commitments on the previous year from €23.39 to €23.04 billion in the second year of the $100 billion commitment and during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is bad news, and shows that the EU cannot just point to other countries like the US for doing their share to fill the gap towards the 100bn, but needs to step up. 

Overall, countries in Europe and the EU should scale up new and additional climate finance to support developing countries, and ensure the collective $100 billion goal is met on average over 2020-25, the EU delivering at least 50% of finance for adaptation. Finance should be in the form of grants and highly concessional finance and commit to end all international public finance for fossil fuels. There are also numerous potential new resources to increase climate finance flows, in the form of revenues from new climate and carbon taxes, shares of levies on windfall profits of fossil fuel companies, and in the on-going revision of the ‘Fit for 55’ legislation, an increased share from sales of Emissions Trading System allowances and revenues from the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism

Finally it is incredibly important that the EU and European countries seek to build alliances with partners on mitigation, loss and damage, adaptation and finance and seek synergies between them. Putting one objective over the other will only have damaging consequences for the negotiations. Keeping 1.5°C alive in a fair way is a key strategy to limit the already huge needs for adaptation and addressing loss and damage, in particular in vulnerable developing countries. All these issues are closely interlinked, and progress on all fronts is essential to progress on climate justice for the countries and communities most affected.


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