New 'Coalition for Higher Ambition' calls on EU to step up efforts to honour Paris Agreement

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Newly formed business and civil society group calls for more climate action from Europe to bring it into line with pledges made in Paris deal, as Commission praises bloc's role in delivering historic agreement

A coalition of businesses, investors, cities, civil society groups, and trade unions has this week urged the European Union (EU) to deliver a new strategy in line with the goals set out in the historic Paris Agreement.

In a nod to the so-called 'High Ambition Coalition' of countries that formed at the Paris Summit, and of which the EU was a member, the group has dubbed itself the 'Coalition for Higher Ambition'.

It released a statement on Tuesday urging the EU to demonstrate the bloc is ready to implement clear policies to keep temperatures well below 2C as the Paris deal states.

The intervention came in the wake of reports the European Commission is privately warning the bloc's emissions trading scheme (ETS) is on track to result in emissions that are two billion tonnes higher the EU committed to under the Paris Agreement. Similarly, leaked Brussels documents have warned the bloc will have to undergo 'profound lifestyle changes' to deliver on the climate goals for 2030 that the EU submitted as part of the Paris deal.

The new group, whose partipants include businesses such as Sky, DONG Energy and Heathrow, as well as members of the Prince of Wales's Corporate Leaders Group, said that while they are "ready to play [their] part to support the objectives of the Paris Agreement", they need to know Europe's leaders will "act to transform the Paris outcomes into reality".

Sandrine Dixson-Declève, director of The Prince of Wales's Corporate Leaders Group, said the coalition represented "major stakeholders from across Europe and a cross section of the European economy" and demonstrated "the breadth and depth of the call for climate leadership".

"Together we believe that Europe must continue to show ambition so as to meet global and national targets of below two degrees, and truly create the necessary framework for further investment in a competitive and resilient low carbon economy," she added.

The group urged EU policymakers to accelerate the development of a zero carbon economy. "We need Europe to stimulate long-term investments in low carbon technologies, in particular energy efficiency and renewable energy, as well as in sustainable agriculture and the protection and restoration of our ecosystems," the group's statement read.

The statement comes ahead of several meetings to discuss Europe's response to the Paris Agreement that are scheduled to take place this month, including a meeting tomorrow of the Environment Council and a full European Council meeting of member states on the March 17th and 18th.

The signatories to the new statement, who also include BT, Unilever, WWF and Greenpeace, urged the EU to develop an "innovative European market" to produce good quality jobs, sustainable growth, improved competitiveness and better public health, while also ensuring a just transition for the workforce.

"2016 is a critical year for the implementation of the Paris Agreement as well as the Sustainable Development Goals through the development of EU legislation that will bring the EU's 2030 climate and energy package to life," the statement read. "There is a real risk that the level of ambition of legislation currently on the table is going to damage Europe's chances of reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement. Europe's 2030 legislative agenda risks locking-in lower ambition."

Boris Palmer, mayor of Tübingen in Germany and ambassador at the Paris climate talks for the Climate Alliance - a group of over 1,700 European cities who have all pledged to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent every five years - said the EU must now work with cities and businesses to put the Paris Agreement into practice.

"Cities have shown their commitment to reach climate goals before and during COP21," he said in a statement. "Now it is up to European leaders to create a framework - in cooperation with us - that makes our work easier and brings all actors together to turn the Paris Agreement into reality."

The launch of the group also came as the European Commission today published a new communique detailing its next steps to ratify and deliver on the Paris Agreement.

The document praises the Paris Agreement as a "major achievement" and reiterates the EU's commitment to delivering on its goals. 

"The transition to a low carbon, resource-efficient economy demands a fundamental shift in technology, energy, economics, finance and ultimately society as a whole," the text reads. "The Paris Agreement is an opportunity for economic transformation, jobs and growth. It is a central element in achieving broader sustainable development goals, as well as the EU priorities of investment, competitiveness, circular economy, research, innovation and energy transition."

It also stresses that the implementation of the Paris Agreement offers "business opportunities for the EU to maintain and exploit its first mover advantage when fostering renewable energy, energy efficiency and competing on the development of other low carbon technology market globally".

"To reap those benefits, the EU will need to continue to lead by example and by action on regulatory policies to reduce emissions but also on enabling factors that accelerate public and private investment in innovation and modernisation in all key sectors, while ensuring other major economies press ahead with commitments," it adds.

Emma Pinchbeck, WWF-UK's head of climate and energy, said the bloc now needed to back up its commitment to the Paris Agreement with detailed policies and more ambitious climate targets. "Today's Communication shows that the European Council is proud of the role the EU played in the Paris negotiations as part of the High Ambition Coalition that called for a 1.5C target," she said. "To honour its commitment, the EU cannot now let its climate targets be set by the least ambitious member states. The EU must be willing to do more, in line with the international deal and in line with the science... Only by doing more, not less, will we protect people and places all over the world at risk from climate change."

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

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