The environment ministers of the EU confirmed the proposal for COP21 to reduce emissions at least by 40% by 2030, and to reduce 80-95% in 2050 compared with 1990

In the last Council of the environment ministers of the European Union, that took place in Brussels on September the 19th, the Governments of the EU Member States refined and consolidated their position with regard to the climate summit to be held in early December in Paris, COP21. The EU-28 aim to achieve mandatory emission cuts under a global deal. The ministers acknowledged the lack of substantial progress in the preparatory negotiations of COP21 and they stressed the need for more intense negotiations in order to reach “a fruitful early ministerial engagement before the Paris Conference”.

The Council of the European Union “stresses that, consistent with recent IPCC findings, in order to stay below 2°C, global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak by 2020 at the latest, be reduced by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 1990 and be near zero or below by 2100”.

Europe takes the leadership

EU-28 recalls an ambitious and durable legally-binding agreement, in the context of the necessary reductions according to the IPCC by developed countries as a group. The EU remains committed to reducing emissions by at least 40% by 2030. The long-term aim is to reduce 80-95% in 2050 compared to 1990. The EU targets are much more ambitious than those suggested by the IPCC. Luxembourg Minister for Environment and President of the Council Carole Dieschbourg said: “With this Mandate the EU will continue to show leadership in the run-up to Paris and facilitate a global agreement that is acceptable for all parties.”

Although this is the common position that will be defended by the European Union at COP21 there are some member states more comfortable with the resolution than others. In the case of Poland the agreement has been greeted with caution as the forthcoming parliamentary elections, by the end of October 2015, will be under a lot of pressure by the trade unions. The disastrous financial situation of the coal sector in Poland, and the request of the trade unions to a direct intervention of the government to rescue it, makes the Polish government very cautious not to appear supporting international agreements that could undermine their position and provoke the aggressive reaction of the trade unions.

Other agreements of the Council: market stability reserve

The Council also reached other agreements, as a system to unify the way in which applicant countries measure and communicate its partners the efforts so far taken, so that national contributions can be compared.

The environment ministers of the European Union approved the creation of a market stability reserve (MSR) for the EU greenhouse gas emission trading scheme (EU ETS), by regulating the level of allowances as from January 2018. The mechanism has been developed to correct problems of emissions trading, establishing a market value for greenhouse gases.  “When the total of emission allowances exceeds a certain threshold, a percentage of allowances will be automatically withdrawn from the market and placed into the reserve”, the final outcome document states. From the time that they do not exceed the maximum limit, allowances will be returned from the reserve to the market.

This agreement stipulates that Backloaded” allowances (the 900 million allowances whose auctioning was postponed from the years 2014-2016 until 2019-2020) will be placed in the reserve. The MSR review will take into account the reserve’s impact on growth, jobs, industrial competitiveness and the risk of carbon leakage. All these criteria are quite suitable for Poland, highly dependent on coal and afraid of an increase on the energy bill and the consequent loss of competitiveness. The market stability reserve is certainly a good way to get Poland on board on the common position of the EU before COP21.

So far, sixty-two countries, accounting 70% of global emissions, have already submitted their commitments to the UN. However, adding their proposals won’t prevent the global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial times, but would be likely to limit temperatures rises to about 3 ºC. This is not certainly enough and it shows there is room for extensive negotiations that can lead to a more ambitious agreement. On the finance side Member States remain, committed to scaling up the mobilisation of climate finance in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency of implementation. It is intended an increase the mobilisation of public and private sources in order to contribute their share of the developed countries’ goal to jointly mobilise USD 100 billion per year by 2020.

Paula Sendín