The fight against climate change is a global issue. We Europeans are currently only responsible for 8% of global emissions, so to succeed we need to work together, above all with the biggest emitters (China, the US, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, Canada and others). As noted in a recent ECFR report (link is external), we need a “climate of cooperation”, with the EU helping to “deliver a green grand bargain”.
To fight climate change, we must accelerate the green transition, shifting away from hydrocarbon sources of energy and this transition will also have major geopolitical consequences. For years, we have seen attempts by oil and gas producers to use their exports as a weapon in international relations. The latest example is Moldova, where Russia tried to link negotiations for a new contract of gas supplies to political considerations, such as Moldova’s choice to strengthen relations with the EU. We have also witnessed the phenomenon of the so-called “oil curse”, meaning that countries that are rich in hydrocarbon resources are often struggling with problems of governance, instability and an undiversified economic structure.
The green transition will redistribute the cards and could help solve some of these problems. However, it will also know winners and losers. It could create new dependencies on technologies and raw materials needed for renewables and adaptive technological developments. We need to manage the transition in an intelligent manner, being alert to geo-political stakes and dynamics.
Source: Our World in Data
Nearly thirty years after the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 we have to recognise that, despite our constantly repeated solemn declarations, we have failed to act decisively enough. Nearly 80% of energy used worldwide is still produced with fossil fuels and the science tells us we are far off track to reach the climate targets of the Paris Agreement. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change reported (link is external) last week that we are on course for 2.7°C of global warming by the end of this century.
This would mean devastating consequences for the planet and our lives, in terms of droughts, sea level rise, storms, bio-diversity loss and more. This would have serious socio-economic and geopolitical repercussions, including in security terms and especially for those countries least able to cope. In this context, the UN climate summit COP26 is probably our “last best chance” to keep the goals of the Paris Agreement (link is external) in reach and global warming close to 1.5°C.
The green transition needs a huge global investment effort. As Jean Pisani-Ferry rightly noted recently (link is external), private investors and entrepreneurs seem ready to invest massively in the green transition. However, they need a credible, stable and favourable policy framework established by the international community and national governments. That is not the case now. This uncertainty has negative consequences: investors and multilaterals lenders like the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the World Bank are turning their back on fossil fuels, but investments in green technologies are still far lower than what is necessary (link is external). With the consequences we are witnessing actually.
As EU, we are still far too dependent on fossil fuels coming from abroad and the current crisis of high energy prices show how problematic this is. So, the rationale for the green transition in Europe is not only climate-related: it is also about enhancing our strategic autonomy, preserving the purchasing power of our citizens and creating competitive advantages for Europe.
Ahead of Glasgow, the EU has made its homework. With the European Green Deal we are accelerating our actions. The European Climate Law has set the legally binding goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050 and member states are committed to a minimum 55% emissions cut by 2030. With the Fit for 55 package, the EU is working on the necessary concrete measures to achieve these targets. It will not be easy. To name just two important elements: the digitalisation of the economy has a significant impact on our energy consumption and the decarbonisation of our economy will have important redistributive effects in terms of employment and revenues. We must find effective ways to cushion them.
The question of climate finance will be decisive for the global success of the Paris Agreement process. The financial and human costs of climate change are growing and, as usual, they will hit developing countries hardest. The status quo is unsustainable while the green transition is also an economic opportunity. Investment in green technologies can be a key driver of a global recovery from the pandemic and provide hundreds of millions of good, safe, sustainable jobs worldwide. Developed countries have many problems to solve, but if they are not able to support developing and emerging countries to adapt to climate change and make their green transition, the global fight against climate change will fail. Together the EU, its member states and the EIB are the biggest contributor to developing countries, with €21 billion (about $25 billion) of the $100 billion yearly Green Fund promised by developed countries. In September, European Commission President von der Leyen announced a further €4 billion by 2027 in her last State of the Union speech. In that matter, we have concrete cooperation projects with developing countries in the making that we will announce during the coming days.
In Glasgow, the EU will focus on mobilising others to act. The European Green Deal is our “calling card” and our invitation to others to match our ambitions. Our outreach has contributed to persuading several major emitters to step up their climate action by committing themselves to mid-century climate neutrality targets after the EU took the lead in December 2019. One week after President von der Leyen called on the US to increase their climate finance contribution, President Biden did so at the UN General Assembly; after our continued engagement with China, President Xi announced the end of overseas coal financing; a week after our High Level Climate Dialogue, Turkey proposed to ratify the Paris Agreement, etc. As next step, President Von der Leyen and US President Biden will launch the Global Methane Pledge in Glasgow to reduce methane emissions, a gas that creates much more greenhouse effect than CO2.
Beyond this summit, lasting success in the fight against climate change will depend on the ability of the world’s major powers to find ways to cooperate even if geo-political tensions and ideological disagreements run high. Through its climate diplomacy, the EU has played since thirty years an important role to make the necessary global cooperation possible. In the tense international context, it will have to play more and more this role in the future. At heart, climate action is a global public good: it can only be produced if all major actors play their part. It is a test case for the multilateral system. Given the dramatic stakes for humankind, it is a test we cannot afford to fail.