Friday

30th Oct 2020

EU leaders spent just 12 minutes on climate

  • After a 12-minute discussion, climate strategy got postponed to December's summit

The EUʼs long-term strategy on climate change on the agenda of EU leaders for Friday's summit (18 October) - however, in the end heads of state spent only about 12 minutes discussing the topic.

Despite the protests and the calls for more ambitious proposals of the different institutions, climate change does not seem to be a priority for the EU leaders - at least not during this summit, mainly focussed on Brexit, enlargement and Turkey.

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"We will discuss this [topic] in greater depth in the December council," said German chancellor Angela Merkel.

The EU commission has proposed to increase to 25 percent climate-related expenditure in the new EU's budget, dedicating a total of €320bn to achieve EU's climate goals.

"The European Council should also provide the necessary impetus to the ongoing work" according to a communication paper from the commission, which insists on the need "to forge a closer link between the budget and policy priorities, such as climate".

However, the EU parliament called for an even more ambitious approach, since the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) is to become the Green New Deal budget.

A greener budget

The shadow rapporteur for the Greens/EFA group in the EU's 2020 budget, MEP Rasmus Andresen, said "he European parliament "wants to turn the EU budget into the driving force behind climate protection".

According to Spanish socialist MEP, Eider Gardiazabal, "the next MFF must fully comply with the Paris agreement".

"We will not accept a budget that fails to deliver on issues that are important for citizens," she added.

The EPP group also warned EU leaders that the conservative group will not agree on the next MFF "without new EU own resources," said MEP Jan Olbrycht and José Manuel Fernandes, who negotiate the long-term EU budget on behalf of the parliament.

These "new resources" refer to new direct revenues for the EU budget which do not come from EU member states' budgets.

"The EPP Group stands for new own resources to finance new priorities and to finance new policies such as the fight against climate change," they added.

Additionally, for the liberal group Renew Europe, "the MFF will be a key tool for fighting climate change notably to fully achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement".

Not just a transition

According to the conclusions of the council, the EU will implement the Paris agreement through a green transition that is "socially fair".

One proposal of the new EU parliament is to add an €4.8bn for a 'Just Energy Transition Fund' to the EU's budget as a way to help European regions to green their economies.

However, according to a Polish "non-paper" circulated to EU leaders, parliament and commission, "the Just Transition Fund needs to be significantly larger" and "go well beyond" the EU's proposed long-term budget for 2021-2027.

"We expect that the commission will present concrete figures broken down by member states," the text states, pointing out that the costs of this energy transition will be higher for those member states that are deeply dependent on coal production, such as Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

The memo also warns that "the existing framework and instruments will not be sufficient to achieve climate neutrality" and that to achieve the efficiency of EU's climate action the resources "should be allocated in priority to those sectors, regions and member states where emissions are the highest".

At the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group annual meeting, the EU commissioner for financial services, Valdis Dombrovskis said that "while public funding will be vital for the green transition, it cannot pay the massive investment bill alone".

"We also have to tap private capital, and greatly scale up green investment so that it can help address the climate emergency," he added.

EU's pending tasks

During the last summit, the EU leaders also invited the European Investment Bank (EIB), the world's biggest multilateral lender, to support climate action through its activities.

However, the EIB's board, mainly made up of European Union finance ministers, failed earlier this week to agree on a new energy lending policy that would end financing fossil fuel projects from 2020.

Germany, Italy, Poland, and Latvia wanted the EIB to continue to finance certain gas projects to help the energy transition.

Only last year, EIB funded almost €2bn of fossil fuel projects. But, according to the Financial Times, the EIB is the world leader in climate finance among multilateral banks.

EU leaders also supported the UN Santiago climate change conference (COP25) priorities "including attention to the link between oceans and climate".

Although the COP25 is known as the "Time for Action", the EU decided on Friday to finalise its EUʼs long-term strategy on climate change at their next meeting in December.

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