International climate negotiations
Climate change is a global challenge as emissions anywhere affect people everywhere. To respond to the climate crisis a rapid decarbonisation of our economies across the world is required. This is why internationally coordinated cooperation is needed. This is done under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UNFCCC.
With the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the UNFCCC COP21 Summit in Paris in December 2015 delivered the long-sought outcomes for international climate action. For the first time in history all countries agreed to take drastic action to protect the planet from climate change, to jointly pursue efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C, and to rapidly reduce emissions towards net zero in the second half of the century.
In addition, the Paris Agreement created a framework for global climate policy by providing common rules for transparency and accountability, and the requirements for regular 5-year revision of countries’ targets and commitments. The global stocktakes set in the Paris Agreement will take place every five years. They are important joint global moments to assess the adequacy of countries’ joint and individual action toward the long term goals of the Paris Agreement. Following these UNFCCC stocktakes all countries are required to set their new greenhouse gas reduction targets for the next five year period.
The EU’s current climate ambition is not consistent with the Paris Agreement
The requirement adopted in the Paris Agreement to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C demands a reassessment of the EU’s climate and energy policies, and an increase in action by all sectors. Reduction of global emissions to net zero by mid-century requires that in the EU most sectors will be fully decarbonised within the next couple of decades, and for the EU to reach net zero greenhouse gas target latest by 2040. Most importantly the EU needs to radically reduce emissions in the short term by 2025 and 2030 as well as set timelines for fully phasing out the use of coal, gas and oil.
Countries’ current climate targets (NDCs) are inadequate and lead to dangerous warming of more than 3°C.
As countries’ current climate targets (NDCs) are inadequate and lead to dangerous warming of more than 3°C, it is therefore critical that all countries improve their respective 2030 mitigation targets. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) outlined in its Special Report on 1.5°C that current global CO2 emissions need to be halved by 2030 to have a chance of keeping temperature rise at 1.5°C. Countries at the UNFCCC have jointly set a deadline for revised 2030 targets to year 2020, and again further increase in 2025.
For the European climate and energy policies to be consistent with the Paris Agreement, the EU needs to adopt a greenhouse gas reduction target of at least -65%, and revise all the related implementing legislation to speed the near term emission reductions across the EU economy. In addition to the urgent domestic emission reductions that the EU is required to do at home, the EU has a responsibility to help other countries financially to reduce their emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
CAN Europe has been working on the UN climate negotiations for more than 25 years and continues to engage actively and in cooperation with CAN International and other regional CAN nodes in the UNFCCC process.
Climate finance for developing countries
A key part of the Paris Climate Agreement is the provision of new and additional finance and resources (including technology development and capacity-building) to developing countries, to support their action to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
For climate finance this takes the form of a commitment by rich countries to mobilise $100 billion US dollars annually from 2020, aiming to achieve a balance between mitigation and adaptation finance, and the agreement of a new climate finance goal from 2025.
CAN Europe endorses a science-based and equitable approach to this support. Considering the scale of the climate crisis, developing countries need more support to enhance and implement their climate action and adaptation plans under the convention.
Moreover, following the equity principle, whereby countries with a higher historical responsibility and with greater capacity to act should do more, European countries need to scale up their financial support on top of their domestic emissions reduction efforts, and in line with the principles of equity and fairness. Developing countries are also in desperate need of finance for loss and damages caused by climate change impacts beyond their scope to adapt. There are an array of potential new sources for loss and damage finance, including a climate damages tax on the heaviest polluters, levies on international aviation and maritime transport, and debt relief and cancellation.
The COVID-19 crisis has hit developing countries hardest, and like the climate crisis is intensifying the structural inequalities between countries and communities.
Climate finance and support on top of existing commitments to development finance is key to ensure that people can meet their development needs, and build resilience through low-carbon solutions and adaptation measures, and should be delivered in a way which strengthens gender equality, takes a human rights-based approach and supports biodiversity objectives (for more see Climate, sustainable development and human rights).
Shifting all financial flows
The global financial system needs to be urgently re-orientated around climate goals, equity, and just transitions to deal with the climate crisis and growing inequalities.
As well as climate finance to support developing countries, the Paris Agreement introduced a commitment to make all financial flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development (the third long term goal of the agreement, Article 2.1c).
CAN Europe works to promote the EU and European countries to assert a progressive position in international negotiations and fora, including the UNFCCC, the G20 and G7, and to drive forward alignment of finance with the Paris Agreement in public banks, notably the European Investment Bank (EIB) and European development finance institutions.
Key issues are the phasing out of fossil fuel finance and harmful spending, the classification and accounting of climate finance, and alignment of finance with long term climate goals and just transitions toward 100% renewables and fully energy efficient energy systems.
Re-orientating public finance away from harmful activities through phasing out fossil fuel finance or pricing carbon also offer opportunities to generate new sources of revenue for climate finance. CAN Europe also works on Financing the Transition within Europe.
Climate, sustainable development and human rights
Climate change and nature loss disproportionately affect those least responsible for causing it: the world’s poorest 20%, most of whom are women, are responsible for less than 3% of global emissions. Impacts of climate change are especially pronounced in developing countries where communities are striving to protect their livelihoods and well-being from climate change impacts whilst also seeking to gain more economic and social stability from ambitious development pathways.
In addition, many people still lack equitable access to scarce natural resources, including safe and sustainable energy.
Choosing pathways to sustainable development means taking an integrated approach to meeting human development as well as climate, natural systems and biodiversity goals, and living within our planetary boundaries.
Climate change and sustainable development are intrinsically linked; without acting on climate change, global development objectives will be reversed, and without pursuing development pathways that are truly sustainable, we will not avoid runaway climate change.
The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, launched in 2015, set out a range of 17 sustainable development goals for both developed countries and developing countries.
Grounded in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and international human rights treaties and emphasises the responsibilities of all states to respect, protect and promote human rights, it envisages “a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination”.
There is a strong emphasis on the empowerment of women and of vulnerable groups such as children, young people, persons with disabilities, older persons, refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants.
In the Paris Agreement countries agree to respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity in their climate action. The UNFCCC Gender Action Plan also aims to advance knowledge and understanding of gender-responsive climate action as well as women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in the UNFCCC process.
To deliver on sustainable development and support just transformation of societies, the European Union needs to take an integrated approach to the Paris Agreement, biodiversity objectives, and Agenda 2030 across its development and climate finance, and across all international and domestic policies. All European policy needs to be assessed for coherence with sustainable development in developing countries to ensure it does not have negative impacts.
In supporting developing countries and their communities to take climate action, the EU’s development and climate finance should strengthen gender equality, prioritise approaches which protect and restore nature, and support human rights-based approaches to climate action plans.
Supporting the circular economy, green and smart cities, and decentralised community-owned renewable energy projects run by local and micro-level actors offer future-proof sustainable development pathways which work for people and planet.
In developed economies, such as the EU, sustainable development should translate into ambitious domestic policy that drastically move our economies away from high-carbon consumption. This shift needs to happen across numerous sectors in the EU; from energy to agriculture, and from finance to infrastructure.
In the coming decades, European countries will have to transition major sectors of their economy (industry, agriculture, energy, transport etc.) to drastically reduce harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while at the same time protecting and restoring natural carbon sinks. Trade policy must help facilitate such a transition or at the very least not stand in the way of achieving it.
At the moment, however, EU trade policy too often restricts or contradicts climate policies. For instance, EU trade agreements facilitate the export of highly polluting cars and chemical products, which do not even have to comply with EU environmental standards when being exported.
The transition of agriculture is contradicted by multiple recent trade agreements that keep the EU and its trading partners on the tract of export orientation and specialisation, rather than encouraging them to diversify. As a consequence, there has been a massive increase in industrial livestock production and chemically-intensive monocultures of crops.
CAN Europe calls for trade policy to be fundamentally changed so that it contributes to climate mitigation instead of contradicting it
There are also a number of trade rules that restrict the ability of governments to take decisive climate action. Some of these restrictions are written into the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO); others are contained in the EU’s plurilateral and bilateral trade and investment agreements. Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) allows foreign investors to sue if a state action lowers the company’s profit expectations.
ISDS has for instance been used by a coal power plant owner in the Netherlands to threaten with a billion Euro compensation claim against the Dutch coal phase-out law. This claim was made on the basis of the so-called Energy Charter Treaty. In order to avoid this treaty to impede the transition to a clean energy system, European countries should withdraw from this treaty and exclude ISDS amongst each other.
CAN Europe calls for trade policy to be fundamentally changed so that it contributes to climate mitigation instead of contradicting it. Trade agreements should not maximise profits for corporations, but rather maximise benefits for people and the planet. To this end, we make a number of suggestions in our position paper on trade policy.