Brussels leaders will meet on Monday to discuss strategy for raising global climate ambition ahead of UN talks
By Ed King
The EU’s climate and foreign policy chiefs are planning a diplomatic blitz over the next three months to try and regain the bloc’s mantle as a global green leader.
On Monday the climate and energy commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete will meet Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs in Brussels to thrash out an engagement strategy.
Foreign ministers from the 28 member states will also meet to discuss how they will coordinate their outreach plans in the coming months.
According to a well-placed EU official there is a strong desire for a “diplomatic offensive” to ensure a UN climate agreement, due to be signed off in Paris this December, is ambitious and legally binding.
The bloc will also try and force the pace by presenting a policy paper at the end of February, outlining what member states contributions to the 2015 climate package are likely to be.
Last October, the EU pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40% on 1990 levels by 2030.
Concern is growing that a climate negotiation process dominated by the US and China, known as the G2, would not result in a final deal that compelled countries to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Leaders in Washington and Beijing, who announced a joint climate package last November, are opposed to any tough new UN regulations, preferring a process dictated at national level.
Warmer links between the two superpowers were clear at last month’s UN climate meeting in Lima, with envoys working behind the scenes to insert their preferred text into the final agreement.
“The dynamics are clear. The G2 is trying to have its own show. Behind the scenes its diplomatic presence is strong,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Central to the EU’s new strategy will be the rebuilding of what in 2011 was labelled the ‘Durban Alliance’, a loose grouping of the EU, small island states and some of the world’s least developed countries.
There the group was credited with forcing the US, China and other major economies like India to accept a UN mandate that called for a climate deal with unspecified legal powers.
The EU will also try to engage a Latin American coalition known as AILAC, which includes Costa Rica, Chile, Colombia and Peru. If realised, this new coalition could amount to over 100 countries.
“We have a lot of points in common,” said the official. “It’s important we have a good understanding…
“It is clear the EU has a very solid idea of what we want in Paris – the EU are the bridge builders.”
— Miguel Arias Cañete (@MAC_europa) November 21, 2014
Close observers of UN talks say Brussels has appeared increasingly remote over the past two years, beset by internal rows over its own longer term decarbonisation plans.
A priority for the EU in Lima was to get a clear and accountable process for scrutinising countries’ “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) to a global deal.
Its demands were largely ignored, with countries going for the weaker option of a UN-led synthesis study to review national pledges by November.
Liz Gallagher, head of climate diplomacy at consultants E3G, said member states should try and get their “mojo back” and make the case for a tougher 2015 deal.
“What we saw in Lima was the crystalisation of politics so far – the US and China shaping some of the agenda around what should go into an INDC – and Europe felt a little marginalised,” she said.
“A new diplomatic alliance with allies could be an important counterbalance to the US-China dynamic, which is very much mitigation focused, and that’s not what Paris will be all about.”
Timing is likely to be critical, with only a limited number of multilateral climate meetings between now and the final showdown in the French capital.
Diplomats will meet in Geneva next month for a one-week set of talks, where they will start exploring the small print of any agreement.
Shane Tomlinson, a senior research fellow at Chatham House, warned that the transparency, accountability and legal force of a UN could be weakened unless there was significant pushback on Beijing and Washington.
Specifically he suggested it should invest in forums like the 40 strong Cartagena Dialogue, aimed at breaking barriers between developed and developing countries.
“Europe should re-energise its links with progressive Latin American countries, such as Peru and Colombia, and Small Island Developing States which formed the backbone of the Cartagena Dialogue,” he said.
“However, Europe must go further and also seek to deepen engagement with major emerging economies such as South Africa, Brazil and India if it really wants to shape the final outcome.”