Documents considered by the Committee on 30 March 2010 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

6   International climate policy post-Copenhagen



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COM(10) 86

Commission Communication International climate policy post-Copenhagen: Acting now to reinvigorate global action on climate change

Legal base
Document originated9 March 2010
Deposited in Parliament11 March 2010
DepartmentEnergy and Climate Change
Basis of considerationEM of 24 March 2010
Previous Committee ReportNone
Discussed in CouncilSee para 6.13 below
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


6.1  According to the Commission, the international dimension has always been an essential part of the EU's climate change ambition to keep the increase in temperature, as compared with pre-industrial levels, to below 2°C, and it says that the EU has therefore always been at the forefront of international action against climate change, being on track to comply with its 2008-12 Kyoto commitments, and having adopted ambitious targets for 2020, including a commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% (or 30% as part of a corresponding overall commitment by other developed and developing countries). The Commission adds that the EU has been a strong supporter of the UN process, and that the outcome of the Copenhagen conference in December 2009 fell well short of its ambitions, but it notes attempts are now being made to achieve a set of concrete action-oriented decisions in Cancun at the end of this year, followed by the adoption of a legally binding agreement in South Africa in 2011. It has therefore sought in this Communication to set out a strategy which will help maintain the momentum of the global efforts to achieve that outcome.

The current document

6.2  The Commission recalls that the main outcome of the Copenhagen conference was an agreement among a representative group of 29 Heads of State and Government on the "Copenhagen Accord", which it says reflected the EU's objective of limiting the temperature increase to 2°C, requested developed countries to put forward their emission reduction targets, and invited developing countries to put forward appropriate action by 31 January 2010. It adds that the Accord also provided a basis for regular monitoring, reporting and verification of those actions; contained a commitment to significant funding for climate change action, together with a related institutional framework; and gave guidance on issues such as reducing emissions from deforestation, technology and adaptation. It also says that, although the conclusions of the conference merely "took note" of the Accord and did not comprise a robust and legally binding agreement, more than 100 submissions to date by both developed and developing countries — many of them including targets or actions — demonstrate a broad and still growing support for the Accord, as well as a clear determination of a majority of countries to step their actions on climate change.

6.3  Looking ahead to the next steps, the Commission says that the EU should continue to pursue a robust and effective international agreement, and that its fundamental objective remains a legally-binding agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which in turn requires the EU to re-focus its efforts. In particular, it suggests that;

  • As regards the UN process, where a range of preparatory meetings are being organised ahead of the conference in Cancun, the aim of those meetings should be to identify gaps in the current negotiating texts and address issues neglected in the Accord (such as the evolution of the international carbon market, reducing emissions from international aviation and maritime transport, and agriculture), as well as bringing into the formal UN negotiating process the developed country targets and developing country actions submitted under the Accord. It says that the EU's objective for Cancun should therefore be a comprehensive and balanced set of decisions to anchor the Accord into the UN negotiating process, and it adds that, whilst the EU is ready to adopt a robust and legally binding agreement in Cancun, the substantial differences which remain mean that a more step-by-step approach may be necessary.
  • As regards the position of third countries, the Commission suggests that the Copenhagen negotiations clearly demonstrated that progress in the UN is conditional on the willingness of countries to act, and that an active outreach programme by the EU, aimed at obtaining a better understanding of the positions, concerns and expectations of its partners on key issues, and at explaining the EU's own objectives, will be essential. It says that it will, in close conjunction with the Council, seek to achieve convergence on action-oriented decisions to be agreed in Cancun, it also being important that the EU should speak with one voice, that outreach activities should take place at all levels and bring in all important stakeholders, involving bilateral as well as multilateral meetings, and that there should be a willingness by all parties to move forward.
  • As regards the reductions required to get global greenhouse gas emissions on the pathway needed to achieve the 2°C objective, the Commission says that, whilst the Kyoto Protocol remains the central building block, its key shortcomings will have to be addressed. In particular, it notes that, since Kyoto currently covers only 30% of emissions, it cannot alone deliver this objective, this being possible only if the US and other major emitters from the developing world (including Brazil, China, India, South Korea, Mexico and South Africa) contribute their share. Also, current pledges by developed countries (ranging from 13.2% to 17.8%) are in any case insufficient, and need to be increased to 25-40%. It adds that the situation is exacerbated by two further weaknesses — the banking of surplus emissions from the Kyoto Protocol's commitment period for 2008 to 2012 into future commitment periods, and the need to amend the accounting rules for land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) emissions from developed countries.


Europe 2020

6.4  The Commission suggests that the most convincing leadership which the EU can show is to become the most climate friendly region in the world, a course which it says is in the EU's self-interest. It points out that the Europe 2020 strategy makes sustainable growth a priority, noting that the EU is committed to achieving by 2020 a 20% reduction in emission levels compared with 1990, moving to a 30% reduction if the conditions are right. It says that it will therefore prepare ahead of the European Council in June an analysis of the practical policies needed to achieve a 30% reduction, and that it will thereafter develop an analysis of the milestones needed to achieve the agreed objective of 85-90% by 2050, as part of the developed countries' contribution to reducing global emissions in that year by at least 50% below 1990 levels. It adds that this analysis will include the ambition level for 2030, reflecting the contributions from key emitting sectors, including energy production and consumption and transport, and set out appropriate strategies for these sectors consistent with the 2020 strategy. It also says that any such action will need to have a strong focus on policies to accelerate innovation and the early deployment of new technologies and infrastructure, creating a competitive edge for European companies in key sectors.

Implementing the Copenhagen Accord

6.5  The Commission suggests that the broad support for the Copenhagen Accord demonstrates the political will from the majority of countries to start action now, and that by far its biggest achievement is the fact that, by the end of January 2010, developed and developing countries, representing more than 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions, have put forward targets and actions. However, it says that their overall ambition level is hard to assess, and that, even if the weaknesses already identified were to be closed, the targets proposed by developed countries (including the even higher conditional pledges) do not come close to the 25-40% reductions required by 2020, adding that, so far, only the EU has adopted the legislation needed to guarantee delivery of its 2020 target, and that there is much uncertainty about the content and timing of the action likely to be undertaken by developing countries. Consequently, the Commission says that the negotiations should now focus on the clarification of these pledges, and how they might be achieved.

6.6  The Commission goes on to point out that the most difficult negotiations in Copenhagen related to the strengthening of the arrangements in the Kyoto Protocol as regards monitoring, reporting and verification, with transparency being the key to progress. It says that one of the priorities must be to anchor the compromises in the Copenhagen Accord in the UN process, but that transparency must not be limited to the reporting of emissions, the most important point being how countries implement their targets or actions. In particular, it stresses the need for robust, transparent and predictable accounting rules which make it possible to assess performance properly. In the meantime, it says that it proposes to embark on regional capacity building programmes for interested developing countries to develop the capabilities in these areas.

Fast-start funding

6.7  The Commission notes that the Copenhagen Accord provides for fast-start support to developing countries of some $30 billion for the period 2010-12, with a balanced allocation between mitigation and adaptation. It points out that the European Council in December 2009 set a yearly contribution of €2.4 billion by the EU and its Member States for that period, and that swift implementation of this is essential both to the EU's credibility and to enhancing the capacity of many developing countries to design and implement effective policies. The Commission adds that the EU must engage with other donors and recipients to ensure coordination of the funding agreed in Copenhagen, and that fast-track actions could include capacity building for integrating development and poverty reduction strategies, capacity building in the area of mitigation, pilot projects for sector-wide carbon market mechanisms, pilot projects for reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries, and technology cooperation. It also suggests that such funding must be well targeted to different regions, and build on, and take account of, existing initiatives. The Commission stresses the need for the EU's own efforts to be coordinated, and says that it is ready to take on a role in this area. In particular, it proposes to work with the ECOFIN Council, to establish a joint EU regional capacity building programme to pool and channel funding, complementing existing EU financial programmes, and to ensure transparency through a bi-annual progress report.

Long-term finance

6.8  The Commission recalls that, in the Copenhagen Accord, the EU and other developed countries committed to jointly mobilise $100 billion (€73 billion) a year by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation action in developing countries. It suggests that this could come from a wide range of sources, including the international carbon market (which, if designed properly, could deliver up to €38 billion a year by 2020); international aviation and maritime transport, building on the existing commitment under the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme for all aviation auction revenues to be used for climate change measures; and international public funding in the range of €22-50 billion a year by 2020, with the EU contributing a fair share. It also believes that the future UN High-Level Panel on Finance and the High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing should explore how these sources can be effectively used for financing future climate actions, with public finance focusing on areas which cannot be adequately financed by the private sector or used to leverage private investments. However, it cautions that the international dimension of long-term finance is only part of the picture, and that developing countries, and particularly the economically more advanced, must also contribute to the overall effort.

The international carbon market

6.9  The Commission says that a well-functioning carbon market is essential for driving low-carbon investments and achieving global mitigation objectives in a cost-effective manner, whilst also generating important financial flows to developing countries. It goes on to suggest that such a market should be built by linking compatible domestic cap and trade schemes, with the goal being to develop an OECD-wide market by 2015, and an even broader one by 2020. It notes that the EU has proposed new sectoral carbon market mechanisms as an interim step towards the development of (multi-sectoral) cap and trade systems, in particular in the more advanced developing countries, which it says can provide a more comprehensive price signal and generate credits on a greater scale. It says that, in addition, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) will continue after 2012, but must be reformed to improve its environmental integrity, effectiveness, efficiency and governance, and should over time increasingly focus on the least developed countries, where the EU should seek common ground with the US and other countries in order to ensure a coherent approach.

The Government's view

6.10  In her Explanatory Memorandum of 24 March 2010, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change (Joan Ruddock) says that, whilst this Communication has no formal implications for UK policy, it has informed discussions within the EU, and she expects the forthcoming Spring European Council in particular to outline the EU's strategy for 2010, although this will continue to crystallise throughout the year in the run up to Cancun. She says that the overall strategy for Cancun outlined in the Communication is in line with UK objectives, and that the Government sees the pledges in the Accord as a very significant raising of ambition compared with the situation only a few months ago, and that, if delivered in accordance with countries' highest intentions, could provide a credible pathway to achieving the 2oC goal. The UK would support the view that the UN negotiations should now focus on clarification of pledges and discussions of how overall ambition can be increased.

6.11  As regards individual aspects of the Communication, the Minister comments:

  • that it is line with UK objectives from a low carbon economy perspective;
  • that the UK welcomes the analysis provided on the Kyoto Protocol, and looks forward to seeing the outcome of the Commission's work in this area: in particular, the issues identified by the Commission as requiring particular focus (the treatment of surplus emissions in future commitment periods, and land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) accounting rules) are amongst those which the UK believes would need to be resolved if a second commitment period were to be considered;
  • that the UK is pleased that the Communication reiterates the public finance commitment by the EU, and is also supportive of progress on a green fund;
  • that, on monitoring, reporting and verification, the Commission highlights the importance of anchoring the Copenhagen Accord into the UN process, and usefully emphasises the need for capacity building for interested developing countries (although she says that the UK is still reviewing the best institutional arrangements for a regional capacity building programme).

The Minister also notes that the Communication highlights a number of issues which are not dealt with in the Accord, but which now need to be picked up in the international negotiations, and she comments that the proposed strategy on carbon markets is in line with UK thinking.

6.12  Finally, she identifies a number of elements in the document which are not completely in line with UK thinking. For example:

  • the UK is considering the suggestion that the Commission should take on a facilitative role on fast-start finance, and is also considering the statement that from 2012 the EU should make a single global offer on finance;
  • it believes that finance should be additional to official development assistance (ODA);
  • whilst it agrees that the EU should speak with a united voice, it notes that the Commission has advocated a stronger negotiating role for itself, and it would not want to see a change to the current approach to the negotiations, which allows the EU to draw on its best talent.

6.13  The Minister concludes by saying that, as this is not a legislative proposal, there is no formal timetable, but she notes that the ideas in the Communication were to be discussed in the Environment Council on 15 March, and in the run up to the European Council on 25-26 March.


6.14  Although this document deals with a subject of obvious political interest, it is essentially an attempt by the Commission to take stock of the state of play on the climate change negotiations following the Copenhagen conference in December 2009, and to suggest ways in which the EU's position can be taken forward in preparation for the next conference to be held in Cancun at the end of this year. However, it is principally concerned with the negotiating process this would entail, rather than the substance of any such deal, where the Commission has in the main re-stated the existing EU position on such issues as emission reduction targets and funding, whilst stressing the importance of it engaging both with other developed countries and with the developing countries in order to implement the so-called Copenhagen Accord. Consequently, although it is obviously right that the Communication should be drawn to the attention of the House, it does not appear to us to raise any new issues requiring further consideration at this stage, given also the extent to which its overall thrust appears to be in line with the UK's approach (though we note the Government's view that the Community's strategy is likely to crystallise during the course of the year). We are therefore content to clear the document.

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