EU countries agree COP27 stance after row on climate ambition

EU environment ministers have agreed their negotiating position for the COP27 climate conference in Sharm el Sheikh following a battle of wills between capitals over the bloc’s level of ambition at the annual UN climate summit.


EU countries agree COP27 stance after row on climate ambition

Environment Ministers gathered in Brussels to finalise the positions. Image: European Union, https://newsroom.consilium.europa.eu/

At their meeting in Luxembourg on Monday (24 October), EU ministers agreed to update the bloc’s climate target “as soon as possible” but added this could only be done after they finalise key legislation with the European Parliament.

The European Union has pledged to cut its net emissions by 55% from 1990 levels by 2030 and is currently negotiating a package of energy and climate laws – dubbed ‘Fit for 55’ – in order to achieve this goal.

These objectives are now being revised upwards following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In May, the European Commission proposed hiking proposed EU targets on renewables and energy efficiency as part of efforts to end the bloc’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels.

These updated figures will eventually be reflected in the EU’s 2030 climate objective, which is likely to be a few percentage points higher than the 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions initially put on the table.

“The EU has always been at the forefront of climate action and we will continue to lead by example. Protecting our planet for future generations requires a strong common global action,” said Anna Hubáčková, the Czech environment minister who was chairing the meeting.

In the final text, which had to be agreed on unanimously, EU countries also state that Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) filed collectively so far by Paris Agreement signatories are “insufficient” and call on “major economies in particular” to “revisit and strengthen their NDCs in time for COP27”.

These climate commitments should be underpinned by promises with robust legislation, the text adds.

Pushing EU climate legislation forward

The discussions on Monday centred around two controversial points: how to update Europe’s ambition in light of the ‘Fit for 55’ package currently under discussion, and wording around global efforts to phase out coal.

On coal, more ambitious countries were determined to echo conclusions from COP26  about “phasing down” its use. The final EU text calls on all Paris Agreement signatories “to close the book on unabated coal through a phasedown and ending inefficient fossil fuel subsidies to accelerate their energy transition”.

On the EU’s own climate pledge, the final text highlights “the aim to conclude negotiations of these essential elements” of the ‘Fit for 55’ package “by the end of 2022”.

This was welcomed by WWF, the conservation NGO. The commitment “demonstrates [the EU’s] ambition to show leadership, credibility and solidarity at the global level,” said the WWF’s Shirley Matheson.

However, she added that EU needs to be looking at emissions reductions of 65%, rather than 55% in order to align with the Paris goal of keeping global warming below 1.5°C.

Meanwhile, Hubáčková called it a good deal. “The European Union wants to show an example and I think that the negotiations on the [Fit for 55 package] show that we are in earnest,” she explained. “I believe that we will manage still during the Czech presidency to find an agreement on all these key issues,” she added.

The EU is now considering a significant push in ‘Fit for 55’ negotiations ahead of COP27, an EU official told EURACTIV. This includes a meeting of negotiators on CO2 standards for cars on Thursday, where lawmakers hope to reach a final agreement.

EU legislators will also push forward on the reform of the EU’s carbon market (EU ETS) and a law to reduce emissions from land use and forestry during the first week of COP27, the official said.

Slow progress on climate finance

Meanwhile, climate finance for poor countries remains the elephant in the COP27 negotiation room.

The world’s wealthiest countries are, once again, set to miss their annual pledge to provide $100bn in climate aid to developing nations this year. According to the environment ministers, EU countries “expect” to meet this goal in 2023.

This is more pessimistic than previous EU communications on the topic, which aimed to reach the target in 2022 and “certainly no later than 2023”.

And, while the EU is the biggest provider of climate finance, Denmark is the only country that has pledged to fund specifically for “loss and damage” caused by climate disasters.

The European Parliament too is calling for more ambition, and has urged wealthy nations at COP27 to “agree on new, adequate and additional sources of public finance clearly prioritising grants in order to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change”.

But EU countries are more tentative, saying “that action and support for vulnerable countries … need to be further scaled up” and highlighting the role of private and public sources of finance to address loss and damage.

Asked about the issue, EU climate chief Frans Timmermans said the EU could be a “bridge builder” on this and already had some ideas to bring to the table.

One potential bridge-building initiative is to promote data sharing and early warning systems. Germany has also proposed a “global shield” that would include quickly implementing solutions for climate-related damage and mobilising additional funds.

France could support this idea, according to the country’s environment minister Christophe Béchu, who said: “We need as much consensus as possible on these financial issues.”

The Netherlands is also “very supportive” of the idea, said Dutch minister Rob Jetten. He added that EU ministers agreed in the meeting to have an “open mind” on loss and damage, although there is no financial commitment yet.

But it is likely that third countries will have financial demands and the EU is “ready to discuss” them, Hubáčková added.

Climate Action Network Europe, an environmental group, has warned against delays. “We need to see progress at COP27 on the creation of a finance facility. Frontline communities have already been waiting too many years and climate impacts are only getting worse,” said the NGO’s director Chiara Martinelli.

Protecting biodiversity and ecosystems

At their meeting, environment ministers also agreed on their approach to negotiations at the Convention on Biological Diversity, due to be held in Canada in December.

The meeting is expected to be a game-changer for global efforts on biodiversity protection, with new goals to safeguard and restore nature.

“We are already witnessing a serious decline of different species and it is time to act. I am glad the EU agreed on a strong position for the biodiversity summit,” said Hubáčková.

The EU text calls for the adoption of an ambitious and comprehensive post-2020 biodiversity framework, including 2030 and 2050 goals as well as addressing the direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity loss.

“Without intact ecosystems, we cannot survive in the fight against the climate crisis,“ said Germany’s environment minister Steffi Lemke ahead of the meeting. “We strive to designate 30% of land and oceans as protected areas by 2030.”

Kira Taylor, EurActiv.com

This article first appeared on EurActiv.com, an edie content partner

© Faversham House Ltd 2022 edie news articles may be copied or forwarded for individual use only. No other reproduction or distribution is permitted without prior written consent.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie

Subscribe