EU and poorest nations re-pledge climate ambition

By Tierney Smith

The countries met to talk about raising the levels of ambition on the road to Doha (© europa.eu)

The European Union and the world’s poorest nations joined forces again this week to call for more ambitious measures to reduce global carbon emissions  and finance the fight against climate change.

Hosted by EU Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard and the Danish EU Presidency the informal ministerial aimed to build on agreements made at the Durban Climate talks.

It was here the unlikely coalition between the EU, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) first formed.

30 countries including representatives from the LDCs and the AOSIS as well as developed countries including Norway and Australia and next year’s conference hosts Qatar met in Brussels (7-8 May) to discuss up the game ahead of December.

“It is very clear that we are all in agreement,” said Hedegaard. “No backtracking. On the contrary it is more ambition not less ambition that we need. Not only for those who are already ambitious but also for those who might not have been so ambitious so far. It is very important to get more people on board.”

She said the informal meeting gave the countries a chance to “test the waters” and called on countries worldwide to step up to their emissions-reduction efforts and deliver their pledge at Doha to iron out by 2015.

Other countries present at the informal meetings this week gave stark reminders of the price of inaction.

“If we do not control the emission of pollution in the air in the next few years to the level which was already agree in Durban and in other forums,” warned Tony de Brum, Minister in assistance with the President of the Marshall Islands.

“The Marshalls, the Gilberts and some of the other island of the Pacific will be the first to go. They will go under water. So for us it is a matter of survival, not just a matter of clean air or clean water. But it is about the actual survival of a people.”

He said the coalition with the EU had thrown a lifeline to the most vulnerable countries worldwide.

Issues discussed over the two days ranged from energy to agriculture, to oceans and fisheries. They also discussed the Rio+20 Earth Summit on Sustainable Development coming up in Brazil next month.

Commitment to finance

One of the main focuses on the informal meetings was the gap existing in climate finance. But with the acute economic crisis still taking focus in the Euro zone, the EU has come under some fire themselves to fill their section of the Green Climate Fund.

While the EU has committed to provide 7.2 billion Euros ($9.4 billion) for the fund over 2010-12, as agreed at the Copenhagen climate talks, after this point how much money will flow into the fund remains unclear.

The Green Climate Fund aims to provide $100 billion globally per year by 2020 to help those most vulnerable to climate change, but a lot of questions around how this could be raised remain.

Martin Lidegaard, Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Building has said both new countries and new private methods of finance will be needed to ensure targets are met.

“This recognising that we need to move on several avenues on both the mitigation gap and the finance gap is what has gathered us here today,” he said.

One such method of finance has been the inclusion of aviation in the current EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) which has faced huge criticism since its adoption in January this year.

Despite this, however, the EU remains confident that such schemes could go some way in helping to raise the types of finance that they predict will be needed in coming years.

Hedegaard said there are many options to consider including levies on aviation bunker fuel, carbon markets, and a solution to shipping emissions – both to help lower emissions and help raise finance.

The EU’s position was supported by the other countries present at the informal meetings and Hasan Mahmud, Bangladeshi Minister for Environment and Forests praised Europe for being “advanced in delivering their responsibilities” in financial pledges to date.

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