Negotiating a new UN climate agreement: Challenges for the Paris climate change conference

27-11-2015

A new international agreement to combat climate change is due to be adopted in December 2015 at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Besides actions to stop global warming, it should also cover adaptation to climate change. In the course of 2015, the vast majority of Parties submitted their intended nationally determined contributions (INDC). The EU's INDC commits to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030. Analysis of the submitted INDCs by the UNFCCC secretariat found that greater emissions reductions are needed to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, the target agreed in the 2009 Copenhagen Accord. The draft UNFCCC negotiating text agreed in October 2015 leaves a number of important issues unresolved, notably the legal form of the agreement. While some negotiators favour a strong, legally binding agreement, others prefer a bottom-up approach based on voluntary contributions. Moreover, issues of fairness and equity need to be addressed, acknowledging that developed countries have a greater historical responsibility for climate change and stronger capacity for taking action. Finally, the question of climate finance is of major importance for developing countries. The leadership role of the EU in international climate action is being challenged by the developments. EU climate diplomacy will have to adapt to the new situation if the EU wants to retain its leadership role, and remain a major player in the global transition towards a zero-carbon economy and energy system. This is a revised and updated version of a publication from March 2015: PE 551.347.

A new international agreement to combat climate change is due to be adopted in December 2015 at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Besides actions to stop global warming, it should also cover adaptation to climate change. In the course of 2015, the vast majority of Parties submitted their intended nationally determined contributions (INDC). The EU's INDC commits to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030. Analysis of the submitted INDCs by the UNFCCC secretariat found that greater emissions reductions are needed to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, the target agreed in the 2009 Copenhagen Accord. The draft UNFCCC negotiating text agreed in October 2015 leaves a number of important issues unresolved, notably the legal form of the agreement. While some negotiators favour a strong, legally binding agreement, others prefer a bottom-up approach based on voluntary contributions. Moreover, issues of fairness and equity need to be addressed, acknowledging that developed countries have a greater historical responsibility for climate change and stronger capacity for taking action. Finally, the question of climate finance is of major importance for developing countries. The leadership role of the EU in international climate action is being challenged by the developments. EU climate diplomacy will have to adapt to the new situation if the EU wants to retain its leadership role, and remain a major player in the global transition towards a zero-carbon economy and energy system. This is a revised and updated version of a publication from March 2015: PE 551.347.