EU report: markets hold key to 2015 climate deal

By Ed King

A greater emphasis on pricing carbon and fewer United Nations summits could speed progress towards a legally binding climate deal in 2015, a European Commission (EC) report recommends.

The Consultative Communication also calls for renewed low-carbon leadership from EU member states, and says the USA, China, India and Brazil must be encouraged to raise their levels of ambition.

The UN climate talks have struggled since a collapse of trust at the 2009 Copenhagen summit, and the past three conferences have laboured to develop agreements among the 195 parties.

The 2011 summit in Durban ended with an agreement to work towards a global climate deal, and while last December’s meeting in Doha failed to deliver short term emission reductions, it did offer a vision of how parties might work towards a deal in 2015.

EU climate chief Connie Hedegaard is currently pushing for greater emission reduction & efficiency targets for 2030

The EU claims a position of climate leadership as a result of a number of renewable energy and efficiency targets for 2020, together with its innovative if struggling emissions trading scheme (EU-ETS).

And despite the critically low price of EU carbon credits, the paper argues the markets offer the best hope for a global agreement.

“The fight against climate change will only succeed if the 2015 Agreement can be implemented in a cost efficient way in the years after 2020. Therefore, there will need to be an increased focus on the use of market-based instruments,” it says.

Aside from mechanisms under the UN’s Kyoto Protocol, global emissions trading schemes are steadily expanding. The USA has a number at state level, while Australia, South Korea, South Africa and China have all recently announced plans.

Chaotic conferences

Calls for fewer high profile summits could prove popular among some analysts – who have told RTCC that the febrile ‘cup final’ atmosphere they generate is rarely matched by what is really on offer.

As the paper observes, in the absence of genuine political will to cut emissions it is hard to maintain a “balance between the continued need for political attention for climate change and avoiding the expectation of ground breaking new progress at every meeting”.


Dragging more reluctant parties into a legally binding treaty will – as the paper suggests – be the toughest challenge facing negotiators ahead of 2015.

Scientists say warming must be limited to 2C above pre-industrial levels to avoid dangerous levels of warming, requiring global emissions to be stabilised before 2050.

The current framework is clearly inadequate – the USA never ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, while Japan, Canada and New Zealand pulled out at the end of 2012.

Developing countries are not required to make any emission commitments at all – a paradigm the EC warns will have to change.

“Agreement will need to address the challenge of attracting the participation of all major economies, including the US, China, India and Brazil, that have so far resisted legally binding commitments to reduce their GHG emissions.

“Moreover, it must provide a means of demonstrating that countries can do more collectively than they are able do individually and avoid that countries wait for others to act first before taking action themselves. And it must provide incentives to encourage ambition, and disincentives for low ambition.”

The paper adds that climate finance flows will also need to take into account the economic changes the world has experienced over the past two decades, arguing that discussions must: “move beyond a developed/developing country paradigm into one in which a broader range of countries will be expected to shoulder a share of the responsibility to provide the necessary means.”

An early test of the EU’s own ambitions will come tomorrow when it launches a green paper on its 2030 targets for emission reduction, energy efficiency and renewables.

A draft seen by the European Voice website suggests the Commission is likely to announce a 2030 target for emissions reduction, but postpone a decision on setting new targets for renewables or efficiency until the next set of EU Commissioners take office in 2014.

Read more on: Climate politics | EU |