European Union External Action

EU's call to raise global ambition on climate change

15/02/2019 - 16:53
News

Scientists and politicians widely acknowledge that climate change is one of the most pressing issues, an existential threat that humanity is facing today. The Paris Agreement adopted in 2015 has set the way forward for all countries to act together in curbing climate change. These commitments must now be implemented.

climate change, climate action, foreign affairs council

According to the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C, we only have twelve years left to take drastic and necessary measures to be on the path to keeping the average global temperature increase to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial times. The European Union and its Member States are committed to win this race against time. If we act swiftly, we can make this wide-ranging transition a success for our economy and society.

On 18 February 2019, EU Ministers for Foreign Affairs sent a message to world leaders on the urgency of raising the global ambition in the fight against climate change. For the EU, ambition is not only about reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but also about adapting to the effects of climate change and addressing its impacts on human and state security.

The year 2019 will be decisive in this joint undertaking.

The EU: a pioneer in the fight against climate change

The transition towards a climate neutral future requires a paradigm shift. All sectors will be affected by the transition, and especially energy, transport, industry and agriculture.

The EU has already put in place an economy-wide framework of climate and energy policies to ensure that we deliver on our Paris commitment for 2030 to reduce our GHG emissions by at least 40 %.  This includes, for example, the EU-wide Emissions Trading System, which has put a price on the CO2 emissions from industry, power plants and flights within the EU and ensures they are progressively reduced, as well as other legislation and policies to cut emissions in other sectors and foster the clean energy transition. Broader changes towards a more sustainable and circular economy are also already taking place, such as the EU-wide ban of single-use plastic products for which alternative products are easily available.

But more needs to be done. This is why the EU Foreign Ministers welcomed the European Commission’s strategic long-term vision for a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, presented on 28 November 2018,  as a key step in preparing the EU's mid-century climate strategy as required under the Paris Agreement.

The strategic long-term vision and the underlying analysis demonstrate that reaching a climate neutral economy is feasible from technological, economic and social perspective, but it requires deep transformation in all of these areas within a generation. 

The vision does not set targets or propose new initiatives. Instead, it seeks to illustrate that this transition can be socially fair – not leaving Europeans or regions behind – and will enhance the competitiveness of EU economy and industry on global markets, securing high quality jobs and sustainable growth in Europe. The vision also opens a thorough debate on how the EU should prepare itself towards the 2050 horizon.

The deep transition necessary for reaching our climate objectives requires fundamental changes in the investment and finance. The EU working hard to make financial flows greener and reaching out to public and private partners around the world to foster a worldwide transition, starting by setting up a classification system for all EU sustainable financial products. This will pave the way for EU labels on green financial products and make it easier to invest in the green economy.

 

Under the Paris Agreement, countries set out their climate action plans in their ‘nationally determined contributions’. Beyond the implementation of these contributions, much remains to be done also under other multilateral processes. For this reason, EU Ministers for Foreign Affairs called in their conclusions for maximising the climate contribution from processes under other fora, such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the Montreal Protocol, which tackles substances that deplete the ozone layer and climate-warming HFC gases.

COP24, Katowice - Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Energy Union

COP24, Katowice - Miguel Arias Cañete, Member of the EC in charge of Climate Action and Energy

COP24, Katowice - President Michal Kurtyka jumps for joy as agreement is annouced © Euronews 

 

2019: A decisive year for raising global ambition

In the fight against climate change, all countries must accelerate their actions towards a climate neutral economy. In particular, the G20 economies, which account for some 80% of global emissions, need to show leadership through ambitious action and credible long-term strategies.

In December 2018, political leaders and experts gathered at the UN climate conference (COP 24) in Katowice, Poland, and agreed on a 'Rulebook', 133 pages of technical rules setting in motion the commitments made under the Paris Agreement. Through these procedures and guidelines, each country's progress will be tracked in a transparent and harmonised manner, providing clear and quality information on collective progress towards the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global temperature rise to well below 2 °C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5 °C.

With the 'rulebook' in place, the focus is now shifting to the implementation of countries’ nationally determined contributions , which requires putting in place plausible domestic measures. Many countries are still lagging behind in the implementation of their climate action plans, including several major economies. For the Paris Agreement to succeed, Parties must provide evidence of national action to deliver on the targets.

As EU Ministers for Foreign Affairs have stressed, the world is not yet moving fast enough to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption. Current global efforts to mitigate climate change need to be tripled for our shared goal to be reached.

The year 2019 will provide many opportunities to raise global climate ambition. In July, the annual United Nations High Level Political Forum will provide impetus for countries to show progress on the implementation of the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including goal 13 on climate action. The EU welcomes that the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is convening a special Climate Summit entitled 'A Race We Can Win. A Race We Must Win' in September 2019, with the explicit goal to mobilise the political will to raise global climate ambition and move towards a climate neutral economy. 

 

Climate change: a threat for world peace

In light of the stark findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C, echoed by many independent reports such as the annual World Economic Forum Global Risk Assessments, EU Foreign Ministers underscored that climate change acts as a global threat multiplier and increasingly as a threat in its own right.

Climate change has a devastating impact on biodiversity, water resources and ecosystems, and land degradation and agriculture. It acts as a threat multiplier by increasing extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, fuelling instability through food insecurity, economic weaknesses, or disaster-related displacements. This has serious implications for peace and security across the globe – sparing no country, from the Arctic region to the small island developing states, and with the poorest and the most vulnerable populations being the most affected.

In the wake of HRVP Mogherini's high level event on Climate Peace and Security on 22 June 2018, which concluded with a strong call for action, including at the UN level, the EU and its Member States have stepped up their action. This has ranged from the UN Security Council, where dedicated discussions on climate change have been held three times in the past year alone, to updating our own crisis management and early warning Systems, and stepping up advocacy and training.

As the world’s largest provider of climate finance, the EU and its Member States are cooperating at bilateral and multilateral levels on adaptation and disaster risk reduction efforts, especially with small island developing states (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries.

On the ground, some of the EU's current annual total of €20bn in public climate finance is also addressing climate security aspects. For instance, in Tanzania the EU contributes to training local farmers in adapting agricultural practices to climate change and increasing the country’s supply of climate shock resistant seeds. Scientific innovation is also brought to bear, from prevention to disaster relief. The EU's Copernicus satellite images and data were deployed for post-disaster recovery in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017 and will be central to the new G7 initiative spearheaded by the EU, where data from the same tools are now being deployed to assess, forecast and prepare for coastal erosion worldwide.

 

 

The EU and its Member States have been pushing for addressing the peace and security implications of climate change at the highest political fora, including at the United Nations Security Council. Climate change risk management must be integrated into the wider security agenda and world leaders should work together on resilience building, food and nutrition security, disaster risk reduction, conflict prevention and sustainable development.

 

UN Security Council - Climate and Security debate, July 2018