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5th Dec 2021

'Now, not 30 or 40 years' von der Leyen warns ahead of COP26

  • The EU remains optimistic about reaching a compromise on the Paris Agreement rulebook at COP26 (Photo: mw238)
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European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen called on Thursday (28 October) for climate leadership, warning that next week's UN climate summit in Glasgow (COP26) is "a moment of truth".

The statement comes just a few days after the UN warned a "leadership gap" in climate action is undermining the global response to halt global warming.

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"We need leadership for credible commitments for decarbonisation to reach the goal of net-zero by mid-century, but also sufficient commitments to cut the emissions this decade," von der Leyen said, pointing out the "especial responsibility" of the G20 countries ahead of their meeting this weekend.

Despite climate diplomacy and national "net-zero" pledges, the world currently is on a track for global temperature rise of 2.7 degrees this century – far from the 1.5-degree limit advocated by scientists and recently defined by UN chief António Guterres as "the only liveable future for humanity".

Von der Leyen said that the EU will show global leaders that economies can grow while cutting emissions, pointing out that "the longer we wait, the more expensive it [the transition] will get". The EU has cut emissions by 31 percent since 1990.

"It is not a question of 30 or 40 years. It is now. It is this decade where we have to get better, otherwise we risk to reach irreversible tipping points," she added.

'Eight years' warning

The UN warned this week that the world has just eight years to halve global greenhouse gas emissions – prompting Guterres to say that global warming could become "an existential threat to humanity."

During the climate negotiation in Glasgow, the EU is expected to push rich countries to deliver on the longstanding commitment to give $100bn (€85bn) a year in climate financing to help developing countries cope with the impact of climate change.

Latest data show a $20 billion shortfall to the 2020 target.

"Climate finance is a question of credibility and solidarity," von der Leyen said, adding that the EU is already contributing with more than $25bn per year.

Another key debate will be finalising the Paris Agreement rulebook - needed to make "a crucial and absolutely necessary change" during the next decade, the chief of the EU executive said.

The EU remains optimistic about reaching a compromise. But civil society argues that no deal on the procedures of the Paris deal, would be better than a bad deal.

Meanwhile, the EU commission announced several initiatives to be launched during COP26.

Von der Leyen said 60 countries have now joined the US and EU-led initiative to reduce global methane emissions, the second-biggest contributor to global warming, after carbon dioxide.

And she also announced a partnership with South Africa to accelerate the country's coal phase-out and €1bn to the Global Forest Pledge – including €250m to protect Congo's forest basin.

COP26 will take place under an intense public scrutiny, as the majority of Europeans (58 percent) think their governments will fail to cut emission by 2050, according to a new survey published by the European Investment Bank.

Analysis

COP26 climate summit: could it be different this time?

World leaders and national negotiators from almost 200 countries will meet in Glasgow next month to discuss global cooperation in response to the climate change emergency. What outcome can be expected? Why does it matter?

EU vows to uphold Paris climate ambition amid scientists' fears

EU leaders called for an "ambitious global response to climate change" to keep the 1.5 degrees global warming limit within reach - after scientists concluded that the projected global increase in fossil-fuel production for 2030 is inconsistent with this target.

COP25 ends with no deal on carbon markets

The outcome of the UN climate conference in Madrid (COP25) has been described as a "catastrophe" by environmental groups, since countries failed to agree on article six of the Paris Agreement, referring to the carbon markets system.

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COP26 and the Congo rainforest - a 'Made in Europe' problem

After it was discovered that the Amazon no longer absorbs carbon, the Congo rainforest – soaking up some 1.2bn tonnes of carbon dioxide each year – is arguably one of our last lines of defence against climate change.

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