Climate change and environmental degradation are an existential threat to Europe and the world. Global climate action still falls short of what is required to achieve the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
EU foreign ministers discuss climate and energy: call for global phase-out of fossil fuels
On 25 January 2021, the Foreign Affairs Council exchanged views on climate and energy diplomacy and adopted conclusions on “Climate and Energy Diplomacy – Delivering on the external dimension of the European Green Deal”.
The European Green Deal sets ambitious goals aiming at transforming the EU into a climate-neutral, fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy. However, since the EU accounts for an 8%, and decreasing, share of global emissions, ambitious internal policy will not be enough.
In its conclusions, the Council acknowledges that although the EU is showing leadership and setting an example by stepping up its domestic commitments, there is an urgent need for collective and decisive global action to contain the increase in the global average temperature, in line with the Paris Agreement mitigation goal. The coherent pursuit of external policy goals is crucial for the success of the European Green Deal. The Council stresses the need for ratification of the Paris Agreement by all who have not yet done so.
Under its climate diplomacy, the EU will work, as a matter of priority, with non-EU G20 and other major economies on climate change mitigation efforts.
The EU will continue to support those most in need, seeking to limit and manage the risk of further loss and degradation through policy support, financing and an exchange of best practices, promoting, among others, nature based solutions.
EU energy diplomacy will aim – as its primary goal – at accelerating the global energy transition, while ensuring affordability, safeguarding the environment and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. To this end, in view of the need for a rapid shift toward climate neutrality, EU energy diplomacy will promote energy efficiency, the deployment of safe and sustainable low-carbon technologies, the increasing uptake and system integration – including through increased interconnections – of renewable energy, and the highest environmental, nuclear safety and transparency standards.
The EU will ensure that its trade policy and its trade agreements are consistent with its climate ambition. For instance, investment into fossil fuel based energy infrastructure projects in third countries will be discouraged, unless fully consistent with an ambitious, clearly defined pathway towards climate neutrality in line with the long-term objectives of the Paris Agreement and best available science.
The EU also calls for a global phase-out of environmentally harmful fossil-fuel subsidies including a phasing out of unabated coal in energy production and – as a first step – an immediate end to all financing of new coal infrastructure. The EU will support international efforts to reduce the environmental and greenhouse gas impact of existing fossil fuel infrastructure, including non-CO2 emissions, such as black carbon. In this context, the Council underlines the need to mitigate the impact of climate change in the Arctic region, which is particularly affected. In addition, the EU will pursue, as a priority, international initiatives on reductions of methane emissions.
The EU also underlines the importance of enhancing the voice and participation of young generations on policy and practice related to climate, energy and the environment, welcoming the “Youth4Climate: driving ambition” event to be hosted by Italy in September 2021.
Engaging with Russia on climate
The European Union cooperates with Russia on climate change and environmental issues in the framework of numerous international organisations, conventions and United Nations bodies and agencies. Currently, the EU is channelling its support to the climate and environment action through its on-going partnerships' initiatives, of which Russia is also part – the Cross-Border Cooperation, the Northern Dimension and the Strategic Partnership for the Implementation of the Paris Agreement. Below are just two examples of cooperation actions in the areas of climate change and environment protection.
Action on Black Carbon in the Arctic
Black carbon pollution is brought to the Arctic from regions across the northern hemisphere, including Europe, Asia and North America, where it affects climate, human health and air quality. Emissions sources within or in close proximity to the Arctic, however, have the greatest impact. Addressing black carbon emissions is therefore a problem that requires local, national and international solutions and response.
The EU-funded Action on Black Carbon in the Arctic is contributing to the development of collective responses to reduce black carbon emissions in the Arctic and to reinforce international cooperation to protect the Arctic environment.
The project focuses on improving the knowledge base, increasing awareness, technical guidance, roadmap for future actions, visibility and outreach in support of regional, national and international initiatives.
To date, emphasis has been on enhanced cooperation with the Arctic Council and the UN-ECE Air Convention, as well as cross-convention collaborations and coordination. National stakeholders’ cooperation has been focussed on Russia, Canada and the USA, as these countries produce the highest black carbon emissions of the eight Arctic countries. There has been good cooperation with these countries with several in-country stakeholder consultation meetings held in Canada and Russia, which resulted in strong expressions of interest to coordinate actions, where possible.
Moreover, recommendations on best available techniques and technical guidance related to black carbon emissions from gas flaring and domestic heating were produced and shared with key international and national stakeholders, including governments, regional groups, NGOs and industry.
The project will run until June 2021.
Involving the public in environmental protection in Russia
Launched in 2019 with EU support, the People for Nature project aims at preserving forests and reducing industrial water and air pollution, by involving the public in environmental protection. It is implemented by WWF-Russia in three ecoregions of the Russian Federation – the Caucasus, Altai-Sayan, and Amur.
To achieve its objectives, the project supports regional environmental NGOs and activists with seminars, online courses, expert advice, and information support, as well as a specialised grant programme. Particular focus is put on usage of advanced skills and technology for environmental protection: satellite monitoring of river pollution and illegal logging, and development of mobile applications and interactive maps for environmental activists. In the long term, the project will result in improved competences of environmental NGOs in the regions, the development of a public environmental monitoring system, and a decrease in the negative environmental impact of the industry.
At the Paris Peace Forum 2020, the joint EU-WWF project People for Nature was selected by organisers among the 10 most relevant and high-potential governance projects and received guidance and support from the Paris Peace Forum to scale up its impact.