With the UK entangled in Brexit, France mired in the “Yellow Vest” movement, and Germany stuck in political quagmire, Europe is not ready to lead global climate talks as the decisive political phase of the UN climate conference opens on Tuesday (11 December).
The so-called Talanoa Dialogue takes place on 11-12 December in Katowice, Poland, where the UN stages its 24th annual climate change conference (COP24).
The aim is to take stock of countries’ collective efforts to limit the rise in global temperatures to “well below 2°C” and ramp up ambition to reach the objectives of the Paris Agreement.
“The Talanoa Dialogue is where the bigger problem is,” said Bas Eickhout, an EU lawmaker who is one of the two Green co-candidates for the European elections next year.
“There is a gap between what we are pledging and meeting the 2°C target, let alone 1.5°C,” Eickhout said as the UN talks enter a decisive stage this week.
“On this, Europe is not ready and this is going to be a key question during the second week of the negotiations,” he pointed out. “The player that could be in the lead during these negotiations is stuck,” the Dutch MEP told EURACTIV in Katowice.
Rulebook and ‘cheap trick’
Miguel Arias Cañete, the EU’s Climate Action and Energy Commissioner, arrived in Katowice saying the European Union was showing leadership after the EU executive published its 2050 strategy on climate change in late November.
The EU received praise for its long-term climate strategy, which lists eight pathways for Europe, including two where the EU reaches net-zero emissions by 2050.
But Eickhout drew a distinction between ongoing negotiations on the Paris rulebook and the political dimension of the Talanoa Dialogue, which is all about ramping up ambition to limit the rise in global temperatures to “well below 2°C”.
“What I see during these negotiations, is that everyone is eager to talk about the rulebook and trying to make it the issue of the week so as to get away from the ambition debate,” he said.
The Dutch lawmaker said Cañete’s insisting on the rulebook, which is indeed important to establish the technical rules of the Paris Agreement was “a cheap trick”.
“With focusing on ‘ambition’ for the rule book, the EU Commissioner tries to avert attention from the total lack of ambition when it comes to the most important part of this COP: concrete commitment to stricter climate targets to fulfil the Paris Agreement and limit the global warming to well below 1.5 degrees,” he said.
Key EU countries missing
For Eickhout, the real political question is whether the European Union is ready to raise its level of ambition at the Talanoa Dialogue.
And the political signals coming from Europe are currently negative, he said. Indeed, key EU member states such as France, Germany and the UK are currently grappling with domestic issues, which hinders the political momentum required to raise the EU’s ambition at the talks.