19th Jun 2019

World leaders pledge to tackle climate change

  • The EU aims to spend 20% of its overall 2014-2020 EU budget on climate action (Photo: Mikko Itälahti)

World leaders on Tuesday (23 September) pledged to step up efforts to fight climate change in the run-up to a global climate agreement in Paris at end of next year.

Speaking at the UN Climate summit in New York, EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso told the assembly of some 120 leaders that the EU is on track to meeting its 2020 target on cutting emissions and increasing renewable energy.

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The commission’s proposal includes a reduction target of 40 percent of domestic emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, plus a renewables target of at least 27 percent and energy savings of 30 percent.

“We are in the process of de-carbonising Europe's economy,” he said.

Barroso noted that the EU aims to spend 20 percent of its overall 2014-2020 EU budget on climate action.

He also announced plans to set aside more than €3 billion in grants to support sustainable energy in developing countries over the next seven years.

Organised by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the summit aims to mobilise political will ahead of a legally binding international climate contract in Paris. It is the largest gathering of leaders on climate change since the failed 2009 summit in Copenhagen.

But critics says the pledges announced, despite the impassioned speeches from global leaders like US President Barack Obama, fall short of what is needed to limit the global rise in temperature to 2 degrees Celsius.

“The EU brings nothing new to the negotiating table yet still pretends to be a climate champion,” said Jean-Cyril Dagorn, a climate change expert at Oxfam.

He says the EU relies too heavily on fossil fuels, a major contributor to green house gas emissions.

Another issue is that developing countries are hoping to tap into a so-called Green Climate Fund, set up in 2010, to help them counter climate change.

NGOs say the fund needs at least €11 billion in the first three years of operation. To date, it has €1.8 billion.

Prior to the summit, Germany and Sweden agreed to place money into the fund. At the summit, governments and businesses from Denmark, France, South Korea, Norway and Switzerland pledged a total of around €1 billion for the fund.

The world's two largest carbon emitters, China and the US, also made some announcements.

China’s Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli said the country would make greater efforts to address climate change by either capping emissions or have them peak “as soon as possible”.

Last year, China invested more in renewables at €43bn than Europe at €37bn, according to the Financial Times.

Gaoli also pledged €6 million to help developing countries fight climate change.

US president Barack Obama, for his part, said the US would help to ensure a global contract is reached in Paris in October.

What are the EU climate talks about?

With climate targets only set at the EU level, the key question is how member states will be persuaded to do their share.

Use 25% of budget on climate change, urge EU states

A discussion document by eight EU countries is piling on the pressure for the EU to do more to fight climate change. But their demands are likely to meet German resistance as leaders gather in Romania to discuss Europe's future.

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