Paris changes everything
Illustration: © Lars-Erik Håkansson
The Paris Agreement constitutes a global turning point away from fossil fuels and toward 100% renewable energy.
For the first time in history all countries have agreed to take drastic action to protect the planet from climate change, to jointly pursue efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C and eventually reduce emissions to zero. Following this historic outcome, the next step is to translate these Paris commitments into deep emission reductions in all countries. There is no doubt that implementing the Paris Agreement will require a complete overhaul of the EU’s current climate and energy policies.
Since the Paris Summit we have already witnessed the transition to a 100% renewable energy economy speeding up. It is in the EU’s own interest to be a frontrunner in the race towards the zero-emission economy.
Increasing action before 2020 is a prerequisite to achieving the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. Cumulative emissions determine the level of global warming, so in order to be consistent with the long-term goal of 1.5°C adopted in Paris, it is paramount to consider the cumulative emissions budget – the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. The IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report provides numbers for different global carbon budgets allowing for different levels of warming. With current emissions of 38Gt of CO2 per year, the entire carbon budget that would allow a 66 per cent chance of staying below 1.5°C would be completely exhausted in five years. A budget allowing only a 50 per cent chance would be gone in nine years (figure 1).
Figure 1. How many years of current emissions would use up the IPCC’s carbon budgets for different levels of warming? Source: Carbon countdown graph by Carbon Brief Data IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report table 2.2.
For any fair likelihood of keeping temperature rise to 1.5°C, global mitigation efforts need to be stepped up between now and 2020, and extended to all sectors, including international shipping and aviation.
Increasing mitigation action before 2020 is vital for achieving the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, and will be one of the key issues if the UN climate conference COP22 in Marrakech in November 2016 is to succeed. Keeping in mind that the EU has already achieved its -20% by 2020 target several years in advance, and is progressing towards 30 per cent domestic reductions by 2020, the EU can make a significant contribution to this discussion by, among other things, cancelling the surplus of pollution permits under the Emissions Trading Scheme and the Effort Sharing Decision.
We urge the EU to seek solutions that can help drive global emissions to a deep decline as of 2017, both in the context of the Global Climate Action Agenda as well as strengthening the national pre-2020 commitments on mitigation and finance.
2025 and 2030 targets must be revised in 2018 at COP24. The post-2020 commitments (INDCs) put forward by countries are inadequate for keeping warming to 1.5°C (or even 2°C). Last May the UNFCCC Secretariat published a report assessing the aggregate effect of countries’ post-2020 targets. The report’s graph below concludes that while most of the carbon budget was already consumed by 2011, countries’ unrevised INDCs will entirely consume the remaining 50 per cent chance of achieving a 1.5°C compliant carbon budget by 2025.
All COP22 countries need to commit to prepare their respective assessments on how to raise the level of post-2020 targets to bridge the adequacy gap by COP24 in 2018. To facilitate this process we urge countries to put forward updated and improved post-2020 INDCs as soon as possible and latest by 2018, and to finalise their long-term strategies as soon as possible, and latest by 2018 (figure 2).
Figure 2. Cumulative CO2 emissions consistent with the goal of keeping global average temperature rise below 1.5°C, with >50% probability by 2100. INDCs = intended nationally determined contributions. Source: IPCC Fifth Assessment Report scenario database and own aggregation.
The EU’s ongoing legislative work on ETS and non-ETS emissions should be used to align the EU’s 2030 targets with science and the commitments made in Paris, and make them economy-wide, covering EU-related emissions from international aviation and shipping.
International shipping and aviation currently account for around 5 per cent of global CO2 emissions, and these emissions are anticipated to have vast growth rates (50–250% by 2050 for shipping, and 270% for aviation). As these sectors’ emissions are not counted under national inventories, the 2018 stocktake must ensure that these sectors too are in line with the Paris Agreement and the 1.5°C compatible carbon budget.
Long-term strategies for zero greenhouse gas and 100 per cent renewable energy. The Paris Agreement includes a long-term goal to pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C requires a reassessment of the EU’s climate and energy policies, and an increase in action by all. The goal to reduce the EU’s domestic emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 is not consistent with the Paris Agreement and has to change to be consistent with the long-term goals governments decided in Paris.
The Paris Agreement also contains a commitment to reduce net global emissions to zero during the second half of the century. Achieving this requires most sectors in the EU to achieve zero emissions earlier, within the next couple of decades. Most urgently, the EU should adopt timelines for fully phasing out the use of coal, gas and oil.
In order to facilitate the process of aligning all policies with the long-term targets of the Paris Agreement, all countries should swiftly proceed in the development of their respective 1.5°C compliant mid-century strategy. Having a long-term strategic vision will help to guide their short- and medium-term decisions and will have a positive impact on a long-term framework for innovation and business development. The updated EU 2050 roadmap should be finalised latest by 2018, and take fully into account the recent striking developments in renewable energy. A COP decision in Marrakech setting the deadline of finalised mid-century roadmaps by 2018 would ensure that all countries begin preparations swiftly.
Shifting of financial flows. The Paris Agreement also includes a requirement for making all financial flows consistent with low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilient development. In the first instance this requires the EU to tackle those financial flows that are obstructing emission reductions, and which hinder progress towards the EU’s broader economic and social objectives. They include fossil fuel subsidies, public finance for high-carbon infrastructure through European development banks, and policy frameworks that facilitate financial support of fossil fuels.
The climate finance roadmap to raise 100 billion US dollars by 2020 should be launched in advance of Marrakech COP22. The roadmap must not be an accounting exercise for already existing financial flows, but rather guarantee stronger transparency, as well as adequate and reliable support for tackling the causes and impacts of climate change. It should also explicitly spell out to what level the EU and other donor countries will increase annual adaptation finance by 2020.
The current review of the EU ETS provides a key opportunity to showcase the EU leadership on climate finance, committing to direct a portion of the revenues from auctioning directly to the Green Climate Fund. Setting up an EU ETS International Climate Action Reserve would give a clear signal to developing countries that the EU is committed to continue to provide additional finance for climate needs in predictable and transparent ways. The Financial Transaction Tax should be implemented as soon as possible.
Resilience, adaptation and loss and damage. Even with the existing and future measures to mitigate climate change, the adaptation needs of all countries will continue to grow, undermining the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in particular. The EU should lead efforts to strengthen human rights in all climate action, as mandated in the Paris Agreement.
Ratification of the Paris Agreement and its early entry into force. A rapid entry into force of the Paris Agreement would demonstrate that there is a strong international support for ambitious climate action and would serve as a strong signal to the private sector. All COP22 countries should set 2018 as a deadline for full entry into force of the Paris Agreement, including finalising all the outstanding work on rules and modalities for countries to be able to implement the Agreement.
Climate Action Network Europe