Weekly wrap: Ratify Paris pact ASAP, EU urges member states

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Family photo of EU leaders on March 17 (credit: EU)

Family photo of EU leaders on March 17 (credit: EU)

By Alex Pashley

EU leaders have appealed to the bloc’s 28 member states to “ratify the Paris Agreement as soon as possible and on time”.

The European Council made the request in its summary of a Thursday meeting in Brussels, where climate change was almost booted off the agenda by the migration crisis.

The UN-backed global warming accord approved in December needs ratifying by at least 55 countries covering 55% of world carbon emissions to take effect in 2020. The EU-28 account for about a tenth.

But it faces months to years of internal wrangling, experts say, as countries jostle over effort-sharing undermining the EU’s reputation as a climate leader.

The Council, led by Poland’s Donald Tusk, welcomed the European Commission’s strategy to tackle climate change over the next 15 years.

That was despite criticism from campaigners that it is incompatible with safe levels of global warming – the bloc refused to deepen a 2030 target to cut emissions 40% from 1990 levels.

Too hot to handle

February, the hottest year on record, may be a sign of scorching twelve months to come, a US scientific agency said. Global warming could be ‘astronomical’ according to NOAA. Ed King boils down the ‘climate emergency’ scientists are warning of.

That came as global carbon emissions stalled in 2015 for a second year despite world GDP expanding 3%, according to the influential International Energy Agency. The flatline in energy-sector emissions is evidence countries can decouple greenhouse gases from growth.

The Paris think tank identified a spurt in renewables, accounting for 90% of new electricity generation, along with a drop in Chinese coal use as key drivers.

Forward China

The Asian giant hinted it could “enhance” its climate target on release of its 2015-2020 economic development plan.

China pledged to peak its emissions before 2030 towards the Paris deal. It’s open to bring that forward, or deepen targets to cut carbon emitted per unit of GDP, the release (in Chinese) implied.

Elsewhere, the country has announced its first-ever cap on energy consumption, and support for steelworkers and coal miners set to be laid off as its economy moves away from heavy industry to services.

Number of the week

£20 bn to $0.07bn – Slump in value of world’s largest private coal miner, Peabody Energy from 2011 to 2016

Germany, carbon-slayer

Europe’s biggest economy is mulling a ‘mammoth’ 95% cut in its emissions by 2050. Environment minister Barbara Hendricks plans to present the strategy to cabinet this summer, reported Climate Home’s Megan Darby from Berlin.

A huge deployment of renewables will provide the overwhelming bulk of its electricity. But there was little information on how to wean itself off main energy source, coal.

Meanwhile Germany’s emissions may have risen for the third year in four in 2015 – and the energy transition or ‘Energiewende’ is rubbing up its neighbours the wrong way.

Talking about the next generation

The week the UK said it would write into a law a commitment to zero carbon emissons (date unspecified), the government propped up the struggling oil and gas industry with £1bn in tax relief.

Chancellor George Osborne said he was putting “the next generation first” in the 2016 budget. But green groups said they were disappointed in the first UK budget after the 2015 Paris climate summit.

Notable green measures included £730 million new support for renewables and small nuclear reactors, but they weren’t enough.


Around the world
To Mars on a sunbeam: NASA bets on solar space travel 
Tanzania’s forests at risk as foreign aid dries up 
Mediterranean could be in driest spell for 900 years 
Green Guantanamo prison camp on closure, urge academics 
Philippines touts gas, renewables as answer to energy demand 
France summons climate envoys back to Paris 

Read more on: EU