Sunday, June 28, 2015

Moving the Paris Agenda

Environmental ministers for the 28 EU countries have been at work on a draft proposal for the Paris climate conference that promises to incorporate at least 2 major elements of a successful agreement. The ministers will meet in a formal European Council session in September to finalize their draft, but as reported by The Guardian, the ministers will try to insist on these key elements:

  • They call first for a legally binding agreement that will guarantee consistency and compliance in the face of earlier failures of nations to keep their promises. Some nations, such as India, have suggested they have no intention of signing such a binding agreement. China has also been reluctant, but Chinese officials will be meeting with EU officials on the climate question in Brussels tomorrow, so it will be important to see how far the Chinese position has evolved. Meanwhile the US will need to walk the high wire, pursing an agreement that is meaningful but doesn't require Congressional approval (since we managed to elect a Congress whose majority is pre-scientific).
  • The EU draft proposal also calls for 5-year reviews of all agreements--a measure strongly supported by climate advocates, and heard with increasing frequency in the pre-conference discussions. On the one hand, this is a concession to limited expectations: no one thinks the Paris agreement will reach a satisfactory resolution, and therefore many participants are looking for ways to make sure the work continues after December. The 5-year reviews are seen by many as the chance to strengthen commitments and ramp up ambitions moving forward.
A third key proposal that needs to be worked up before the Paris meeting is the question of financial support by wealthy nations for the Green Climate Fund, or some other mechanism to aid poorer countries in their energy transformation. The EU finance ministers will meet in a formal Council session in October to prepare a draft proposal, though important international meetings will take place in Addis Ababa next month, and in New York in September, on this delicate question.

What all this activity means for Paris is far from clear--the question of massive international transfers of development money, and of legally binding agreements, are particularly thorny. What we can see, though, is the the EU is determined to play its historic role as the large entity most concerned to move these agenda items. (An interesting analysis of that role can be found here.)In the absence of US political consensus, and with the problematic positions of other heavyweights like China and India, the EU has to assume that leadership role, and it seems to be doing just that.

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