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EU INDC: A teacher’s report on Europe’s growing pains

By April 8, 2015 No Comments

Having announced its first ‘climate and energy package’ in 2008, Europe is now at the shy, teenage stage of decarbonisation.


There’s a lot going on internally. Believe me. Even though it seems we’re only mumbling we’re just a bit to tell the world all the changes that are happening inside the EU’s gates..

While the US and China have gained encouraging praise and hit the headlines with big mitigation stories, Europe’s own behaviour reflects our somewhat shy teenager stage of decarbonisation.

Across Europe, fossil energy utilities are splitting up, parliaments are discussing climate laws, and cities are going fossil free.

All in all, we’re still on track to exceeding our current 2020 emissions targets . And like a young child at the brink of puberty, our pathway to decarbonisation maturity is inevitable .

We’re still a bit insecure with the speed of all these changes though.

In its latest submission to the international community on climate change, the EU has succumbed to its own humility and stuck with the decision it made last October, of a 2030 emissions reductions target of ‘at least 40%’ reductions.

This we knowas the classic copy and paste approach by a struggling student who hasn’t spent enough time on their homework. Not only have we stuck to the same answers as last time, but we have continued to exclude tricky sectors like forestry.

It’s commendable that Europe met the 31 March deadline. But if it wants to get ahead in life, it needs to start revising early – revising up its ambition that is, in response to upcoming assessments of the INDCs from the UN and civil society

It also needs some confidence to give a better answer in response to that dreaded question, “So what’s your long term plan?”

Europe’s had the same position on a 50% reduction by 2050 for years, and it is still using science from 2006 to justify it.

It’s time for Europe to get into this decade and update its thinking.

Talking to a cool new gang like the Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC) might well feel like the most terrifying thing to a lanky spot-ridden European adolescent.

But there’s plenty of common ground on strong rules, a ratchet mechanism to increase ambition and good quality climate finance in the Paris deal.

In what probably felt like declaring undying love to your crush in the school canteen, Europe sent the subtlest of signals that it might raise its mitigation pledge ahead of Paris with one small line at the end of its INDC:

The EU and its Member States look forward to discussing with other Parties the fairness and ambition of INDCs the context of the below 2°C objective, their aggregate contribution to that objective and on ways to collectively increase ambition further.’

Don’t let all the hours that went into this carefully crafted text go to waste!

Europe needs to get out there more, prioritise climate change in all its diplomaticoutreach, and test out pick-up lines on rules, reviews and ratchet mechanisms.

In a clear sign of immaturity, Europe is shirking the tricky questions.

Sorting out a global climate deal will not happen if Europe chooses to keep pressing snooze on the tough issues, leaving them out of its INDC and attempting to lie-in until the last minute in Paris.

On finance, Europe’s negotiators are still sulking that their Green Climate Fund pledges ahead of Lima didn’t instantly unlock goodwill from developing countries. But by leaving out any of its own plans on adaptation in its INDC, Europe looks like it isn’t taking its allies’ key concerns seriously.

It’s common knowledge in high school that it takes time to build a good reputation. To do so, Europe needs to put forward serious propositions on climate finance and resilience way before Paris.

Believe it or not, it’s got plenty of chances to do just thatat the G7, Financing for Development summit,and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Europe is staring moodily at its feet, waiting in the corner for someone to ask it to the school dance. But if we’re going to be ready to dance in Paris, we need bold action, and we need it now.

There’s no going back now. Our only chance in Paris is to step out and announce to the world just how groovy our fosil-free transition can be.


About Louisa Casson

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