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13th Apr 2021

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Four reasons for optimism, as climate ministers take over talks

  • Climate protest in London (Photo: 350.org)

The European Union's climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said Monday (7 December) the EU will not accept "just any kind of agreement", but that a climate deal should be "fair, inclusive, dynamic, durable and ambitious".

Canete made his remarks at the so-called high level segment of the United Nations climate conference in Paris. After a opening summit of government leaders on 30 November, which kicked off the process, climate negotiators have spent the past week trying to thrash out a draft agreement.

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  • Canete: “We did not come here for a weak deal. That would be worse than no deal at all” (Photo: European Commission)

As of Monday, the world's ministers have taken over from their subordinates. They will try to reach a deal during the rest of the week.

On Saturday (5 December), Luxembourg's environment minister spoke on behalf of all EU national governments at a press conference in Paris. She said "some progress" had been made in the first of the two weeks of talks.

"The draft is still too complex and has too many options," said Carole Dieschbourg. However, she praised the "good spirit" in Paris, and added: "We can turn this draft into a solid and an ambitious deal."

The European Commission's Canete was also present at Saturday's press conference.

"We did not come here for a weak deal. That would be worse than no deal at all," he said.

Four reasons for optimism

But, regardless of the outcome at the Paris climate talks, 2015 already provides many signs that it was a historic 'climate year'.

2015 was probably the hottest year since temperature measurements started in the nineteenth century.

Yet, the United Nations' highest ranking climate diplomat, Christiana Figueres, is urging the public to be optimistic. "I have not met a single human being who's motivated by bad news," she told The New Yorker recently.

And there are at least four reasons to be upbeat about the fate of the world.

1. Politics

Although it is easy to be cynical about declarations made by politicians, some serious pledges were made in 2015.

In June, the leaders of the world's seven largest economies, including Germany, France, Italy, and the UK, said for the first time that there should be "decarbonisation of the global economy over the course of this century". In other words: a complete phase-out of all greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.

Some European countries, like the UK, have already promised to stop using coal, the dirtiest of the fossil fuels, in the coming decades. Germany and the Netherlands are also considering a similar move.

2. Economics

Increasingly, the idea of the 'carbon bubble' is gaining ground.

According to the concept, assets invested in fossil fuels are worth much less than currently estimated, because of the expected phase-out mentioned above. A key development is the so-called divestment movement, which urges pension funds, universities and government agencies to remove their investments from fossil fuel projects.

In 2014, an estimated $50 billion was divested, but in 2015 the trend skyrocketed. By December, over 500 institutions, representing a whopping $3.4 trillion in assets, had promised to divest.

3. Technology

The price of renewable energy is falling rapidly. Solar panel prices have fallen by around 80 percent since the Copenhagen climate summit of 2009. And companies have started seeing renewable energy as a PR tool. Technology companies like Apple and Google promise that their energy-demanding data centres are green.

4. Citizens

Although large-scale protests in Paris were forbidden in the aftermath of the November terrorist attack, almost 10,000 people gathered ahead of the climate conference.

A total of over 600,000 people demanded more climate action in protests in 175 countries.

This story was originally published in EUobserver's 2015 Europe in Review Magazine.

Click here to read previous editions of Europe in Review magazines.

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