COP23: Where does Europe really stand?

Now that the US has decided to step out of the Paris climate agreement, the EU has an ever bigger responsibility in the fight against climate change. Europe must reclaim the mantle of world leader on the issue.

That the Paris Agreement bears the name of one of the most famous cities in the world  makes it even more important for Europe and France to see it implemented successfully. French President Emmanuel Macron has promised several times that he will do his utmost to tackle the climate crisis and has even determined to organise a special climate summit exactly two years after the signing of the Paris agreement in the French capital, a move intended to make further progress on climate finance. But big emotional speeches should not distract us from the urgency to act. Nice words must be followed by concrete decisions. Since Paris and COP21 in 2015 it can sometimes seem that everything is under control, now that there is an official Agreement. But the reality is different. All heads of States and Government who are speaking at COP23 today need to roll up their sleeves: many studies have shown that the so called intended nationally determined contributions - or national climate action plans - on the table are not ambitious enough and not sufficient to maintain global warming well below 2 degrees.

This is particularly true for the EU. After Donald Trump's decision to leave the Paris agreement, Europe and China stepped up their rhetoric to position themselves as global leaders on climate action. But with negotiations on the EU's climate plan for 2030 underway, does the action meet these warm words? We hear that “The EU is well on track with Paris”, “the EU is leading the world on renewables”, “the EU ETS is its flagship instrument”… Well, this is sadly NOT the case. The reality is that Europe is not only losing its climate leadership but also about to miss the e-mobility revolution. And this is not good for business either.

With the number of extreme weather events having tripled in Europe since 1980, the European Commission and the European heads of states cannot publicly present themselves as willing to fix the challenge while at the same time postponing their efforts to an undefined distant future. The recent European Commission plans to reduce CO2 from cars, which fall really extremely sort of what is needed, is one of too many examples of a missed opportunity to increase ambition.  Even Governor of California Jerry Brown said it at a meeting with the Commission and Parliamentarians last week!

The Greens have alerted the Commission and the Members States several times to the importance of taking the so-called ‘carbon budget’ into account and phasing out carbon emission as of today. Their recent ‘Vision Scenario’ - an illustrative and numerical long-term scenario analysis for the energy sector and the greenhouse gas emissions of the EU 28 based on a carbon budget approach - shows why we need to respect a constrained emissions budget, which is 890 Gt of CO? globally to limit global warming well below 2 degrees. It also shows how to get to a zero carbon emission by 2050  in a cost efficient way. 

With the ongoing negotiations on the so called 'winter' energy and mobility packages, and the new CO2 emission reduction targets for cars, the EU has a big chance to scale up its ambition. Something for the EU delegation to reflect on as they listen to EU heads of government re-state their serious and sincere commitment to the Paris agreement this afternoon...


More information

Read the Vision Scenario for Policy-makers as well as our latest blog on the issue