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21st May 2022

EU agrees common position for climate summit

  • The EU wants a legally-binding agreement to reach zero carbon emissions in 2100. (Photo: Elvin)

EU environment ministers adopted on Friday (18 September) the bloc's negotiating position ahead of the November-December climate conference in Paris.

The EU will demand a "legally-binding agreement" and "a comprehensive package of decisions to enable implementation", say the meeting conclusions.

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The aim is to agree "by 2020 at the latest", a reduction "by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 1990 and near zero or below by 2100", in order to keep global warming under 2°C.

But the reduction goal of "at least 50%" is something of a red herring when compared to an EU objective that was agreed in February 2011, when countries promised to reduce emissions by 80-95% by 2050 compared to 1990. The ministers in their conclusions simply "recalled" this official EU policy.

"It is a compromise," said Luxembourgish minister Carole Dieschbourg, who was chairing the meeting. "But it will lead the way to an ambitious, robust, dynamic climate agreement," she said at a press conference.

Voluntarism

Ministers also agreed to demand that a Paris agreement includes the setting up of a follow-up mechanism, with a review every five years, when countries would be "required to either submit new or updated commitments" to reduce their emissions.

They also reaffirmed their countries would pay their share of the $100 billion fund per year by 2020 to help developing countries.

"The EU displayed a voluntaristic burst today and is taking its responsibilities," French minister Segolene Royal told reporters after the meeting.

"Once we came out of the technical discussions [between member states], we entered a political dynamic and you could feel ministers had the green light from the leaders," said Royal who, as environment minister from the host country, will be one of Europe's main negotiators at the climate conference.

EU ministers, however, did express some doubts about the Paris summit's chances of success.

In their conclusions, they pointed out "the considerable amount of work still ahead in order to reach the Paris outcome" and said they were "concerned about the lack of substantial progress on the negotiating text up to now".

Environment NGOs welcomed the EU's overall position but said the bloc should go further.

"The call for a phase-out of emissions from all the EU Member States is an important signal that the EU still wants to reach a meaningful Paris agreement," Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network Europe, said in a statement.

But he expressed regret that "EU ministers failed to provide details on how they will scale up climate action, so that the transition to the fossil fuel-free economy happens at a scale and pace needed to avoid the worst consequences of climate change."

"The EU's position is still far from what is needed to reach an effective global deal," Greenpeace EU energy policy adviser Jiri Jerabek said in statement.

"Europe can and should do more to speed-up the energy transition towards a renewable-based system and commit to phase out fossil fuels at home."

Carbon trading

During their meeting, the ministers also approved the creation of a market stability reserve (MSR) for the EU carbon emission trading system.

According to the plan, emissions allowances will be removed from the market when the yearly total of allowances is too high.

The mechanism, to be put in place in 2018, would prevent prices from going down and therefore reducing incentives for low-carbon investments.

The plan will now go back to the Europan Parliament for a second reading.

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