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EU sets 2014 deadline for global climate pledges

Meeting to establish EU position at UN climate talks, ministers have proposed 2014 deadline and stressed role of public finance

Source: Flickr / motiqua

Source: Flickr / motiqua

By Sophie Yeo

The European Union has said that climate proposals to be adopted in a legally binding deal in 2015 must be set out by UN Parties by the end of next year.

Meeting this week in Luxembourg, the EU ministers focused on the need to ramp up momentum at the upcoming climate conference in Warsaw.

In separate meetings to establish a common EU position to put on the table at UN talks this November, the Environment Council and the Council for Economic and Financial Affairs (Ecofin) reached conclusions on how to approach negotiations on pre- and post-2020 ambition on emissions reductions and climate finance.

Valentinas Mazuronis, the Lithuanian Minister of Environment, who will lead the EU delegation in Warsaw, stressed that the coming conference was an important step, with time running short until the final 2015 deadline.

“Warsaw this year and Lima next year will be the last stages before reaching the so long-awaited global climate change agreement in Paris in 2015. It is crucial that we start laying the basis for success in Paris already now,” he said in a statement.

Key milestone

The final document released by the Environment Council states that the EU is determined to work towards a balanced package of decisions in Warsaw.

This would include both enhancing previous decisions, increasing pre-2020 ambition, and laying the foundations for the legally binding agreement they hope will be signed off in Paris in 2015.

The EU minsters say they will push 2014 as the point at which countries must be prepared to offer proposed commitments to be adopted in the 2015 agreement.

If the UN adopts their proposed timetable, the EU hopes it will set the stage for a draft negotiating text to be ready for the following year’s climate talks in Lima.

Ulriikka Aarnio, Policy Officer at CAN Europe, told RTCC: “Warsaw is just a milestone on the pathway to Paris, so unfortunately there’s not going to be much new political action on increasing targets.”

But she adds that Warsaw is still a key part of the process: “This meeting is important because the EU says we need to make sure the countries will start working in 2014 on what they are going to commit to.”

Pre-2020 ambition

The EU’s final negotiating position on pre-2020 ambition also indicates an attempt to build momentum.

In the document, it says: “enhancing global pre-2020 mitigation ambition will contribute to an ambitious 2015 international agreement”.

It adds that the EU remains willing to move to a 30% emissions reduction rate by 2020, rather than the 20% that it is already well on track to achieve, on the condition that their commitment is equalled by other developing countries.

In one of the more last minute and controversial additions to the document, the EU emphasised that ministers must engage on this issue at the Warsaw Conference.

“There was a group of countries that wanted to know how the EU wanted to increase its current inadequate targets, but that was also something that Poland and France didn’t really want to do,” said Aarnio.

But she adds: “There is now the conclusion that they acknowledge the inadequacy of the targets and the need to revise it. In paragraph 12, they added a sentence that emphasises the need for ministerial engagement on this in Warsaw, so as to create a bit more high level momentum to put pressure on increasing the near term targets, not only long term targets.”

And while others want the EU to set out ambitious decarbonisation goals for 2030, E3G senior policy advisor Liz Gallagher, who was also at the meeting, says this is unrealistic.

“We were never going to have a 2030 package outlined for Warsaw. I don’t think that’s necessarily needed,” she told RTCC.

“I think an ambitious 2030 package is needed for the Ban Ki-moon summit [in 2014] and that’s the most important thing.”

Finance targets

Some have expressed disappointment that the EU did not push more to improve their own climate finance targets, particularly in the decisions taken in the Ecofin Council meeting.

In a statement, Lies Craeynest, Oxfam’s EU climate change expert, said: “Only a handful of the 28 European governments have put concrete figures on the table.

“To start building the progressive coalitions needed to clinch a global climate deal in 2015, all EU countries should now come forward and say how much money they intend to stump up to help poor countries adapt to a changing climate and develop in a low carbon way in 2015 and 2015.

“This should include initial pledges to the UN-backed Green Climate Fund.”

Gallagher says that there were a number of positive aspects to the final financial position adopted by the EU, including the focus on International Financial Institutions (IFIs), along with a general acknowledgement that private funds should not replace public funds when gathering together the US$ 100 billion that has so far been committed.

The final document acknowledges that climate change will amplify the challenges faced in developing countries of addressing poverty and promoting economic growth, and therefore encourages IFIs to make sure that climate change is a factor in their own objectives.

Gallagher said: “They are trying to get the IFIs to engage more on climate risks, on the impact, and really mainstream the discussions on climate change, which would be important.”

The EU also affirms that private finance should not be seen as a substitute for public finance, which will remain key to climate adaptation and mitigation funding.

“It send a nice clear signal in advance of Warsaw that they haven’t forgotten about public finance, they do know that they’ve committed to do stuff, and I think it’s trying to appease some of the concerns about the push from the US for the $100 billion to mostly be private finance,” says Gallagher.

“It’s a mark in the sand that says they realise public finance is as important as private finance.”

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