COP21: EU teams up with Africa and small islands as battle lines drawn with China and India


More than 100 countries now aligned in calling for five yearly reviews, a long term emissions target, and a legally-binding accord

The European Union has joined forces with 79 poor and vulnerable nations over the contents of a climate deal expected to be agreed in Paris this week, as clear dividing lines emerged between the new grouping and the fast-expanding economies of China, India, Brazil and South Africa.

In a joint press conference with environment ministers from Gabon, Germany and Papua New Guinea today, Miguel Arias Canete, EU Energy and Climate Commissioner, said all 107 nations in the new coalition were fighting for a "very ambitious" agreement at COP21.

He maintained the talks were not about the divide between rich and poor countries and that all members of the new group wanted to see global temperatures limited to less than 2C.

New climate finance was also pledged with the European Union promising to allocate €475m to the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of countries by 2020, while Germany increased its funding for adaptation for developing counties by €50m to reach a total of €140m. In addition, it was announced today that the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI) has secured over $10bn from the European Union, Sweden and G7 to support its plan to deliver 10GW of additional renewable energy on the continent by 2020.

The countries in the EU and vulnerable nation coalition all agreed that a deal at COP21 should be:

  • Legally binding, inclusive, fair, ambitious, durable and dynamic
  • Set out a clear and operational long-term emissions goal which is in line with science
  • Establish a review mechanism for countries to assess their efforts to tackle climate change every five years
  • Include a transparency and accountability system to track progress on the delivery of national commitments

"These negotiations are not about "them" and "us"," said Canete. "These negotiations are about all of us, both developed and developing countries, finding common ground and solutions together.

"We urge other countries to join us. Together we can do it. The EU stands shoulder to shoulder with its long term partners in the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions."

The formation of the coalition, which is notably yet to include the US, confirms dividing lines are being drawn ahead of the final three days if the summit when the negotiations are expected to heat up.

However, a number of key emerging economies are understood to be opposed to crucial elements of the proposed agreement put forward by the EU and its new allies.

Several key players are said to be resistant to the idea of a review mechanism, arguing that imposing future emission reduction requirements and formal verification processes on developing countries would impinge upon their sovereignty.

However, leading industrialised nations are said to be "pushing hard" for the so-called "ratchet mechanism", arguing they are the "gold dust" that would determine whether the talks can be regarded as a success or not. It is hoped a review mechanism would allow countries committed to delivering an ambitious deal to strengthen any Paris Agreement in the future and revisit some of the issues they are likely to have to compromise in securing a deal this week.

Meanwhile, the so-called BASIC group of emerging economies, which includes China, India and Brazil, has continued to step up pressure on industrialised nations to deliver more ambitious climate finance commitments.

Earlier today, China, Brazil, and South Africa joined India in rejecting a report by the OECD which shows rich countries are more than half way to meeting their commitment to deliver $100bn of climate finance a year by 2020.

Developed countries, including the UK, want the text to reflect that some emerging economies are now "in a position" to deliver climate finance after 2020. But China argues such a statement would undo the foundations of the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that recognises the differences between developing and developed countries in terms of their contributions to causing and tackling climate change.

"Differentiation does not weaken collective effort to tackle climate exchange, it paves the way to its global effectiveness," they said in a statement.

But key industrialised nations are fiercely resistant to the retention of a formal dividing line in the agreement between industrialised, or 'annex one' countries in the UN's jargon, and developing or 'non-annex one' countries. It is understood many industrialised nations are adamant that the formal differentiation between annex one and non-annex one countries needs to be rethought, on the grounds six out of the 10 richest countries in the world by per capita GDP are now technically non-annex one nations.

Meanwhile, a row is brewing over the negotiating process orchestrated by the summit's French hosts with a number of emerging economies, including Malaysia, voicing disquiet at the decision to allow working groups of Ministers to undertake talks on a range of issues before a new official text is released for wider discussion tomorrow. BusinessGreen understands a number of industrialised nations are worried an early release of a draft text which still contains a large number of unresolved issues for discussion in the main plenary session would slow down the negotiating process and aid those pushing for a weaker compromise agreement.

The developments came as the Climate Action Tracker group issued an update, which calculated that if countries deliver on the emissions pledges contained in their INDCs it is likely to put the world on a path to 2.7C of warming by 2100.

The group also calculated countries could justify more ambitious emission reduction programmes if they better accounted for the health benefits that come with reduced emissions.

The analysis said that if just four governments - China, India, Japan, Russia, as well as the EU - were to take such action, they could reduce the 2 degree emissions gap by 25-45 per cent and the 1.5 degree gap by 20-34 per cent.

"There are so many co-benefits from taking action on climate change," said Prof Niklas Höhne of NewClimate Institute. "Even with this very narrow and conservative analysis, showing the health benefits from from cutting air pollution, we see that cutting emissions makes good economic sense, and could significantly narrow the emissions gap."

This article is part of BusinessGreen's Road to Paris hub, hosted in association with PwC.

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