Aligning EU policies with the Paris Agreement The Paris Agreement is an important step forward in the fight against dangerous climate change. Finally all governments of the world agree that action is needed to keep global temperature increases well below 2°C, and preferably even below 1.5°C. Problem: even if all national commitments are fully implemented global emissions in 2030 will still need to be reduced by another 25%. The EU is not exempt from this gap between the action necessary to confront climate change and the current commitments made to reducing emissions. Worryingly, the reality of current climate policies in the EU is that we are simultaneously undermining our fight against irreparable climate change whilst allowing numerous co-benefits from climate action to go unrealised.

EU higher climate ambitions

The Paris Agreement is an important step forward in the fight against dangerous climate change. Finally all governments of the world agree that action is needed to keep global temperature increases well below 2°C, and preferably even below 1.5°C.

However, the weakness of the Paris Agreement is that it is built upon the voluntary commitments of governments. Already in Paris, governments recognised that the current commitments, up to 2030, are not in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. In its latest Emissions Gap Report, November 2016, the United Nations Environment Programme calculated that even if all national commitments are fully implemented global emissions in 2030 will still need to be reduced by another 25%.

The EU is not exempt from this gap between the action necessary to confront climate change and the current commitments made to reducing emissions. Despite this, many EU decision-makers claim that the EU is well ahead of all other countries and that it is now more important to ensure implementation of the Paris commitment than re-open the debate on the level of emission reductions needed by 2030. This claim continues to gain traction despite the fact that out of the seven biggest emitters responsible for 70% of global emissions, only two increased their CO2 emissions in 2015: India (which still has very low per capita emissions) and the EU. Firstly, this indicates that other big emitters are taking action and, secondly, that the EU is definitely not taking action above and beyond the rest of the international community.

Despite the EU clearly slowing down on climate action, the Commission's own impact assessment - made in preparation of a reform of its climate and energy legislation – has demonstrated the additional benefits of increasing action, including: additional employment; increased GDP; reductions to the fossil fuel import bill, reduced health care expenditure and lower wholesale electricity prices. All of these benefits are linked to proposals to go beyond the 30% energy efficiency and 27% renewable energy targets.

Worryingly, the reality of current climate policies in the EU is that we are simultaneously undermining our fight against irreparable climate change whilst allowing numerous co-benefits from climate action to go unrealised.

b) Different audiences need different approaches 

The need to increase ambition in EU climate policy emphasises the parallel need to have a greater array of well-placed and well-targeted voices calling for change and pressuring decision-makers to take action. This makes the issue a two-fold problem that must be addressed in tandem as part of a unified approach: climate change policy in the EU must be improved and, in order to do so, actors must be empowered with the appropriate tools to affect this type of change, particularly when targeting the growing number of conservative decision-makers who are invariably silent to arguments based on climate change science.

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