EU takes the lead at climate change conference in Dubai, facing challenges

EU takes the lead at climate change conference in Dubai, facing challenges
Credit: EU

The European Commission has sent a large delegation of Commissioners and Commission President von der Leyen in the lead to the COP28 Climate Change Conference in Dubai.

The EU will call on all Parties at the conference to take urgent action to bring down greenhouse gas emissions this decade and respect the commitments they made under the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to below 2°C, and to aim for 1.5°C.

Von der Leyen herself attended a number of high-level events on Friday and Saturday. Among others she launched the Global Pledge on Renewables and Energy Efficiency, together with the COP28 Presidency, aiming to triple installed renewables capacity and double energy efficiency measures by 2030.

Delivering these targets will support the transition to a decarbonised energy system, and help to phase out unabated fossil fuels, according to the Commission.

With this Global Pledge, we have built a broad and strong coalition of countries committed to the clean energy transition - big and small, north and south, heavy emitters, developing nations, and small island states,” President von der Leyen said.  “We are united by our common belief that to respect the 1.5°C goal in the Paris Agreement, we need to phase out fossil fuels.”

“We do that by fast-tracking the clean energy transition, by tripling renewables and doubling energy efficiency,” she added optimistically. “This pledge will create green jobs and sustainable growth by investing in technologies of the future. And, of course, it will reduce emissions which is the heart of our work at COP28.”

This will be a challenge for the conference as the previous conference, COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, ended with unfinished business and the world currently is heading towards global warming above 2°C by the end of this century as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned.

The climate super-pollutants, responsible for over half of today’s warming, include among others methane, the most powerful greenhouse gas. Under the Global Methane Pledge, more than 150 countries are now implementing a collective goal of reducing global anthropogenic methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030, according to the Commission.

The EU and its member states announced €175 million in support of the Methane Finance Sprint to boost methane reduction at the Summit. That sounds promising but in fact the EU has watered down its own efforts to reduce methane emissions.

Last week, the co-legislators (the Council and the Parliament) agreed to exclude the emissions from cattle farming from the scope of the Industrial Emissions Directive. In fact, the biggest source of methane emissions in agriculture was excluded from the beginning in the Commission’s legislative proposal.

The Commission President will also speak at the Super-Pollutants Summit, attend the Coal Transition Accelerator (CTA) initiative event, participate in the Global Stocktake roundtable on Means of Implementation,

On Friday she delivered the official EU Statement in Plenary with the President of the European Council Charles Michel. In the statement, she outlined EU ambitions: "Global emissions must peak by 2025. We must phase out fossil fuels. And we must reduce methane emissions."

“But what we are calling for globally, we also have to deliver domestically. The EU has peaked already. We have reduced emissions. And we are on track to overshoot our target for 2030.” And we just adopted a law to drastically reduce methane emission, she claimed.

From 6 December onwards, Commissioner for Climate Action Wopke Hoekstra will lead the EU negotiating team in the formal decision-making process of COP28, including the first Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement.

This will be a moment for all Parties to examine the progress made and the necessary actions to correct our course towards a safer climate and uphold the goals of the Paris Agreement. The EU will encourage all partners to agree to global energy goals that seek to accelerate the phaseout of unabated fossil fuels, as part of increasing global ambition on climate change mitigation, the Commission says.

The following Vice-Presidents and Commissioners are also attending COP28:

Executive Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič (1-6 December), Vice-President Dubravka Šuica (8 December), Commissioner Johannes Hahn (3 December), Commissioner Janez Lenarčič (3 December), Commissioner Kadri Simson (3-5 December), and Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius (9 December).

The EU’s negotiating goals at COP28 are ambitious and include:

  • tripling global renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency improvement rates by 2030;
  • reaching agreement on phasing out unabated fossil fuels;
  • making sure that fossil fuel consumption peaks ahead of 2030;
  • phasing out fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or the just transition.

Update: The article has been updated to include the official EU statement which was delivered on 1 December and outlines EU's ambitions and achievements.

M. Apelblat

The Brussels Times

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