COP21: EP centre-left majority sets the mandate for EP delegation to “ambitious legally binding agreement”

The EU Parliament adopted a resolution constituting the mandate for its delegation to COP 21, the UN climate change conference that will take place in Paris in December 2015. The adopted text urges the EU to demand a legally binding and ambitious agreement. Although the final document received cross-party support, key differences remain between the political families, which sets the stage for further difficult negotiations.

Concretely, MEPs coming from the leftist groups and ALDE formed a majority in favour of more ambitious legally-binding targets. Their position is that the EU should lead the way and go ahead with 3 binding targets, an energy-efficiency target of 40%, a renewable energy target of 30% by 2030 and a greenhouse-gas (GHG) reduction target of at least 40% (compared to 1990 levels). These forces have also asked for a roadmap to completely eliminate greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050.

On the other hand, the conservative forces, EPP and ECR, prefer a more gradual approach that would allow various economic sectors more time to adjust without losing competitiveness. EPP and ECR proposed that the full elimination of CO2 emissions should be envisaged by the end of the century, as 2050 is considered an unrealistic deadline. Moreover, the centre-right euro-parliamentarians are of the opinion that the EU should be more cautious in establishing its own binding targets in the absence of a legally-binding agreement at global level, since the lack of a level-playing field would put the European industry (and its jobs) at a disadvantage when trying to sell its products and services on the global market.  This view was not shared by the left and ALDE, who currently rally a majority in the European Parliament on environmental matters, and who are more inclined to believe that if Europe takes the lead this would put pressure on the other global players to do the same.

Through this report, the EU Parliament also calls on the Member States to urgently take binding and concrete measures against climate change and pull their weight towards an ambitious and legally binding agreement in Paris this December. However, the voting behavior of some key delegations of MEPs whose parties are governing in their countries seems to indicate that these governments have reservations. Concretely, Angela Merkel’s German CDU/CSU delegation, David Cameron’s Conservative delegation, Polish Law&Justice Party (of the new prime-minister Beata Szydlo) and Mariano Rajoy’s Partido Popular delegation all voted for a more gradual approach towards achieving environmental objectives.

In the graph below, the groups voting in favour voted for targets of “at least 40 % in CO2 emissions reduction, an EU renewables target of 27 % and a non-binding energy efficiency target; notes that the European Council ruled out any binding national sub-targets in order to provide the flexibility for Member States, in accordance with the EU Treaties, to determine their own cost effective low-carbon energy mix”.

On the other hand, the groups voting “against” defended an existent statement in favour of the more ambitious targets: “an energy efficiency target of 40 %, a renewables target of at least 30 % and a GHG reduction target of at least 40 %”.

Energy targets

Eventually, the text of the mandate as a whole  was adopted by 434 votes in favour, 96 votes against and 52 abstentions. The majority supporting the text as a whole included the Christian-Democrat group EPP, the Socialist group S&D, the Liberals of the ALDE group, the radical left group GUE/NGL and the Greens. The majority of the Conservative members of the ECR group abstained. However, some members of the ECR, mainly from Poland, opposed. Finally, the resolution was opposed by the far right group ENF and the British Eurosceptic parliamentarians of UKIP.

Other provisions of the mandate of the EP delegation to COP21:

The document underlines that a stable climate system is of key importance for food security, energy production, water and sanitation and global peace. Therefore, the commitment to decarbonise the global economy is welcomed by the Members of the Parliament in favour of the resolution.

Furthermore, the text underlines that without greater effort from the transport sector in reducing emissions, the overall climate targets will be impossible to reach. The importance of research and innovation in combating climate change was also recognised. The resolution affirms that tackling the climate issue must be a strategic priority for the EU and that climate change needs an urgent, global response based on international solidarity.

Statements of the EU political groups:

The European Peoples Party (EPP), the political family of President Juncker and Chancellor Merkel, is in favour of “an ambitious agreement which must include all major players including the US, China and India[1].”

The Socialists and Democrats (S&D) of President Schulz, call for “an active role of the EU negotiating team to push for legally binding and ambitious emission reduction targets, as well as solid financial instruments to achieve those goals.”

The rapporteur on the dossier, Mr Pargneaux, said: “Finance is the cornerstone of the Paris agreement. Therefore, the Parliament calls on the EU and its member states to honour the ambition to deliver their part of the 100 USD billion per year for the financing of climate action in developing countries[2].”

The Liberal group ALDE of Mr Verhofstadt, push for a concrete EU mechanism for international climate finance. Liberal Members said: “Climate finance will be crucial to forge much-needed coalitions and ensure poor countries can leapfrog towards clean and climate-resilient development. We call on EU finance ministers to back the Parliament´s proposal and use the EU´s carbon market for international finance[3].”

The EU political group close to Mr Tsipras, GUE/NGL, welcomed the adoption of this report in Parliament but warned of the power of the corporate lobby to influence the outcome of COP21[4].

The members from the Greens’ group are also in favour of a binding UN climate deal that aims to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to below 2 degrees. “Long-term emissions goals will be a key issue at the COP21. We need to be phasing out carbon globally by 2050 and moving to zero emissions to prevent dangerous climate change[5]” said the Greens/EFA group.

Background

The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015. The Paris Conference is very important because it should agree on a legally binding climate change agreement applicable to all Parties, which should come into effect in 2020.

The EU Parliament will send a delegation of 15 EU Parliamentarians to the Paris Conference.

If you want to know more about COP21 click here.

[1] http://www.eppgroup.eu/highlights/EPP-Group-Highlights-%2812-16-October-2015%29

[2] http://www.socialistsanddemocrats.eu/newsroom/ambitious-and-binding-climate-agreement-best-guarantee-safe-future-say-sds

[3] http://www.alde.eu/nc/press/press-and-release-news/press-release/article/paris-climate-conference-liberals-and-democrats-call-for-concrete-eu-proposal-on-international-clim/

[4] http://www.guengl.eu/news/article/gue-ngl-news/corporate-greed-has-no-place-at-cop21

[5] http://www.greens-efa.eu/un-climate-change-talks-14631.html