What is the EU's Position on a Legally-Binding Agreement?
This post, written by Robert S. Eshelman, originally appeared on the Nation
Amidst a scandal over a leaked Danish negotiating text, pressure is growing on E.U. countries to boost their pledges for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and firm up their commitment to a legally-binding, comprehensive agreement on addressing climate change.The E.U. will hold its final quarterly meeting of the year this week in Brussels and environmental groups are pressuring the leaders of Britain, France, and Germany to commit to stronger emissions reductions targets before arriving at COP15. The E.U. has previously pledged to reduce its emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020 and would increase that commitment to 30% if other developed countries commit to similar targets. Now, environmental groups are demanding that the E.U. raise their pledge to a 40% reduction by 2020, given recent emission reduction offers from countries such as China, India, and South Africa and in order to meet the recommendations of the IPCC, the U.N.'s climate science organization.
The leaked Danish text, published yesterday in the Guardian, has exposed several E.U. countries to criticism that they are reneging on prior commitments to the Kyoto Protocol and that they are part of an effort to ram an agreement through COP15 that does not address the concerns of many poor and low-lying island nations. There are several significant aspects of the leaked document. It includes requirements for developing countries' to cut their emissions, a provision that runs counter to responsibilities in Kyoto for developed nations to recognize their historic responsibility for global warming through emissions cuts. And, the proposal, if implemented, would erode the U.N.'s role in financing climate adaptation. Several European countries took part in negotiating the text.
In response to the leaked text, Sudanese Ambassador Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, speaking on behalf of the G77, said: "The G77 member states will not walk out of these consultations or negotiations at this late hour because we cannot afford failure. We have to reach a fair and just deal. However, we will not sign an unequitable deal."
In a dramatic move this afternoon, COP15 talks have been temporarily suspended. The small island nation of Tuvalu called on UNFCCC nations to consider its proposal for legally-binding climate agreement. It proposal had been crafted in a bottom-up fashion and would create a legally-binding climate deal that included demands from poor and developing nations. But it did not get support for a hearing on its proposal. Importantly, the E.U., along with the U.S., did not support a hearing of Tuvalu's proposal.
Addressing the E.U.'s role in climate negotiations and the call for boosting emissions targets, Martin Kaiser Greenpeace International Climate Policy Director, told me: "We expect a statement from Brown, Sarkozy, and Merkel on their commitment to a legally-binding agreement and increasing emissions targets. Cutting emissions twenty percent below 1990 levels if below the recommendations of the IPCC and far below what aggregate emissions cuts require for keeping temperature rise below two degrees Celsius."
While the G77 has committed to remaining at the negotiating table, stark divisions are emerging between developed nations; developing countries, such as Brazil, China and India; and the poor and low-lying countries. Commitments this week from the European Union on its support for a legally-binding agreement and greater emissions cuts could bridge these gaps ever so slightly. But it may be a gap that is already too wide to close in the remaining days of COP15.