The European Union reprised its trendsetting role in world climate negotiations on Thursday by committing the first Intended Nationally Determined Contributions to the planned Paris climate agreement at the end of this year. Also on Thursday, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change issued the official “Paris Accord” negotiating text from its Geneva meeting.
The 2013 Warsaw UN conference adopted the INDC strategy to acquire bottom-up commitments from individual countries and locally workable climate measures. The top-down framework nations aspired to several decades ago was abandoned as imposing a conflict-ridden and likely unattainable “one size fits all” approach.
The 28 countries of Europe, which comprise about one-sixth of the nations of the UN, have now announced they’ll all follow a climate protocol worked out by their group for the international Paris climate agreement. The EU targets “at least” 40% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2030.
The numbers haven’t changed since the EU first committed to them last October, just before the joint US–China emissions announcements. However, this 2015 move involves firmer numbers and a reporting format that specifically follows guidance from the December conference in Lima and clarifications from the just-concluded high-level international meetings in Geneva. It thus puts the world a step closer to unified climate action at December’s Paris climate talks.
The EU government authorities will approve the INDC document at their scheduled council meeting on March 6 and formally submit it to the UNFCCC later next month. The nations of Europe have also committed to work on clustering their 28 separate energy markets by eliminating market barriers, making fuel purchases from more diverse sources, and enabling more cross-border power links. Finally, Europe has suggested a further goal by calling on all 168 other world governments to address a 60% carbon emissions reduction from 2010 levels by 2050.
Of course, for one reason or other, not everyone is happy with the EU’s announcement. People are already quibbling about the possibility of land use diluting other results, what’s “binding” and what isn’t, and even the European voting bloc’s tone of voice (it’s been called “strident” by some, “querulous” by others).
Still, the offer from the 28 EU nations sets a positive example for other national governments that are currently working on their Paris climate commitments. By quantifying significant reduction targets and rigorously detailing the steps to be taken to meet them, the nations of Europe have set a bar for all the rest of us.
CleanTechnica offers lots more information and regular updates on the complex UN process. If you didn’t catch it already, earlier this week we published an excellent summary on national vs. international perspectives from the World Resources Institute.