The Parliamentary Yearbook is currently gathering news items for major features on sustainable energy and climate change in the next edition and will be monitoring progress following the Rio+20 conference “towards a greener future”
Europe should set a target to reduce CO2 emissions by 30% on 1990 levels by 2020 in order to demonstrate political leadership in the run up to UN climate talks in 2015, when political agreement could be reached on a new international agreement to replace the Kyoto protocol. That is the verdict of the Energy and Climate Change Committee who earlier this week published a report looking at the future of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
In 1992 154 countries joined a treaty to “cooperatively consider what they could do to limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and to cope with whatever impacts were, by then, inevitable.” This was called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
In 2011 the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) of the UNFCCC in Durban, South Africa, agreed the “Durban Platform for Enhanced Action”. This launched a new process within the UNFCCC: “to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force […] applicable to all Parties”. WWF-UK described this as a “major breakthrough” as “for the first time, all countries have agreed to be brought under one legally binding framework to address climate change.” It is expected that this new agreement will be adopted at COP21 in 2015, and will be implemented from 1st January 2020. A new Ad Hoc Working Group is currently preparing the framework for negotiations.
The UK’s ambition to reduce its emissions by 80% by 2050, legislated for in the Climate Change Act 2008, shows climate leadership—rather than trying to do the minimum the UK and the EU are sending out the right signal that this should be a race for increased ambition.
Tim Yeo MP, Chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, said:
“Europe can be proud of the leadership it has showed on climate change: introducing the world’s first emissions trading scheme and keeping the Kyoto Protocol alive when it could have collapsed.
It must now show leadership again by setting a more ambitious goal to bolster the chances of a new agreement being reached in 2015.
“The EU’s current 20% carbon reduction target by 2020 is no longer sufficiently ambitious or challenging and will be easily reached because of the recession.
“Twenty fifteen needs to be the year in which an agreement is reached to give the world a fighting chance of keeping temperature rises below dangerous levels.”
The Kyoto Protocol created an invaluable architecture for future agreements – including common emissions reporting, accounting standards and a compliance system – but it should not be renewed after its second commitment period finishes in 2020, according to the MPs. Instead, diplomatic efforts should now be focused on reaching a new, and genuinely international, agreement via the promising Platform negotiated last year in Doha.
The report points out that the global political situation could be favourable to reaching an agreement in 2015, as China will be thinking about its next five year plan and the US could be in a position to introduce measures in Congress. Europe’s influence over future international negotiations would be greatly increased if its own economy was decarbonised more rapidly – and the MPs are calling on the UK Government to argue strongly for this at an EU level.
The distinction between developed and developing countries set out in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol is now out of date. The Department of Energy and Climate Change should support the use of the Human Development Index in future to determine equitably which countries are treated as ‘developed’ – and required to decrease their emissions immediately and which countries are given excess carbon permits until their average earnings come in line with other developed countries.
Given the severe fiscal constraints in most developed countries, it is politically and economically unlikely that the US $100 billion Green Climate Fund target will be reached by 2020 unless an innovative mechanism is developed to budgetary contributions. The UK should exploit its expertise in financial services to develop innovative mechanisms for levering in more private investment to help achieve the target and make up for the inevitable shortfall in public funds.
The Government should support moves to eliminate the $400 billion of fossil fuel subsidies across the world, while ensuring that this is done in a way that does not worsen fuel poverty. Energy efficiency should be prioritised as a mitigation strategy as it is one of the most cost-effective ways to cut emissions. The Government should also show leadership by acknowledging that consumption in the UK and some other developed countries is driving up territorial emissions elsewhere.
The Parliamentary Year book will continue to report on environmental issues and their impact on the UK as we go through the months ahead.