The Agreement reached at the COP21 in Paris last December was, by almost any standard, a landmark agreement and the successful culmination of years of tedious negotiations. The Paris Agreement commits 187 nations to a common objective, namely, a world with warming limited to well below 2°C, and climate neutrality achieved in the second half of the century. The EU and its Member States can claim to be major contributors to this success as they managed to keep a united front, despite differences among Member States on subject matter, despite the strong headwinds and turbulent times in other policy fields, and despite the tendency of the Common Foreign and Security Policy to break up into less common, national government-driven positions whenever things get tough. On the contrary, at the COP21, diplomats put into action a smart negotiation strategy to build the ‘High Ambition Coalition’, which managed to break up the long-standing divide between developed and developing countries. This has been also a success of EU institutions, notably the Commission and the EEAS, who worked towards a common position across Member States from early on in the process, and of the Member States themselves, who contributed resources and political commitment to the cause.
However, the ultimate success of the Agreement hinges on implementation. (I)NDCs, the contributions countries have committed to, are insufficient. The Agreement contains many elements to ensure that the objectives will eventually be achieved, but it will require a sustained effort in the years to come. EU Climate Diplomacy will need to keep up the positive momentum. Its FAC Conclusions from 15 Feb 2016 recognize this and pledge continued efforts to keep climate change a strategic priority to support implementation of the Paris Agreement and to address the climate-stability nexus. It will be crucial for the FAC to follow up on its intention to elaborate a more concrete, more comprehensive and more ambitious action plan – building on the rather fuzzy list of activities mentioned thus far. Here are some important elements for doing so:
These elements can form a robust basis to prepare the EU for the year 2018 where the first stocktaking will indicate whether Paris really can be considered as a success. But, one thing is already clear: it would send an unacceptable, contradictory signal to partners around the globe if the EU backtracks on its own levels of engagement and puts climate diplomacy on the backburner.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous parallels have been drawn between this health crisis and the climate crisis. Science plays an important role in advising decision makers on how to ensure sustainable crisis management and a precautionary approach to avoid harmful repercussions, particularly where we do not yet know all the consequences of our actions. [...]
Decarbonisation won’t come as fast as the pandemic. But if fossil fuel exporters are not prepared for it, they will face an enduring crisis. The EU can help.
Stories of clear skies and wildlife conquering urban areas might provide much needed comfort during these uncertain times as the health crisis unfolds. But in Brazil, where climate and environmental issues already lack attention and resources, the pandemic underscores the next crisis.
Solutions to the current COVID-19 crisis need to be aligned to those of the climate crisis for a global transformation towards more sustainability, resilience, equity, and justice. Climate diplomacy has the tools to achieve these objectives simultaneously.