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20th Apr 2019

Climate activists 'disappointed' with EU at climate talks

  • Climate activists at a protest at one of Germany's coal-fired power plants (Photo: Friends of the Earth International)

Europe has not done enough to become a leader on climate action, environmental group Friends of the Earth said at a press conference on Friday (17 November), on the last day of climate negotiations in Bonn.

"It has been absolutely disappointing, to say the least," said Meena Raman about the role of the EU at the talks.

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  • Merkel 'failed' to announce coal phase-out, say activists at Bonn climate conference (Photo: UNFCC)

Raman represented the Malaysian branch of Friends of the Earth.

"Many of us hoped that the EU would have truly shown leadership," she said.

"We would have expected that with the announcement of the Trump administration pulling out of Paris, that the EU would have really encouraged much more alliance-building, and showing goodwill to developing countries, who are all committed to the Paris agreement."

But according to Raman, the EU's part in the climate talks, which began two weeks ago, was "no different" from the United States.

She said rich countries and regions like the EU should have increased their greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, and made more money available for developing countries to help them reduce emissions and prepare for climate change.

According to her Nigerian counterpart, Godwin Ojo, there was "no willingness to put money on the table".

The United Nations talks in Bonn are about how to implement the historic 2015 Paris agreement, which is the first global treaty aimed at limiting global warming to "well below" 2C, and to even try to stay below the 1.5C threshold – something very challenging consider that average temperatures are already around 1.1C higher than pre-industrial levels.

The Bonn talks were not expected to have a similarly concrete outcome like in Paris, but rather were about doing the preparatory work for next year's climate summit, or Conference of the Parties (COP), which will take place in Poland.

COP24 in Poland will include a so-called 'facilitative dialogue' about how to raise ambition.

But Raman called that process "another talkshop".

"We are sick and tired of talkshops. Act!," she said, slightly raising her voice.

She said rich countries have to provide the good example, and were not doing that.

She criticised a promise made on Thursday by several countries – including Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, and the UK – to phase out coal-fired power by 2030.

Coal is the most CO2-emitting of the fossil fuels, but Raman took aim at the timetable.

"Why are rich countries allowed to have a coal phaseout in 2030? Why can't they do it now?"

Germany

Her colleague Ann-Kathrin Schneider, of Friends of the Earth Germany, said that although she was "proud of the people power" shown in protests, this conference "has also been a COP of great disappointment for me".

Schneider would have wanted German chancellor Angela Merkel to have announced a coal phase-out as well.

"She has failed to do so. She came here and talked about the problems of climate action in Germany. She said that even in a rich country it is very difficult to act on climate," said Schneider.

When this website noted Merkel's centre-right party's coalition talks with the Christian Social Union, the Greens, and the Liberals are not yet concluded, Schneider said it was "not unrealistic" to expect some commitment from Merkel in relation to a coal phase-out.

"There was a leak that Merkel came in [the coalition talks] with compromise proposal on shutting down seven gigawatts of coal plants before 2020," said Schneider.

She said that if Merkel was able to propose her potential coalition partners "something as concrete as that", she "should have here used this stage to announce a similar proposal".

Germany is hosting the talks in Bonn because the United Nations climate change offices are here, but the official presidency is held by the island nation Fiji.

Poland ratifies Doha amendment

Next year's talks will be hosted by Poland, in Katowice, located in a coal heartland.

On Thursday, the Polish environment ministry announced that its country would before the end of 2017 ratify an amendment to a previous climate treaty, the Doha amendment to the Kyoto protocol – which adds a second commitment period before the Paris deal kicks in.

Poland was the last EU country to hold up ratification, which according to Friends of the Earth Poland was "symbolic".

"As future host of COP 24, I believe this is the only thing we actually could have done," said campaigner Urszula Stefanowicz. "We should have done it long time ago."

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