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Brussels, 9 November 2009

The Copenhagen climate change negotiations: EU position and state of play

International negotiations were launched in December 2007 to draw up a United Nations agreement on tackling climate change for the period after 2012, when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (setting emission targets for industrialised countries) will expire. The deadline set for the negotiations to be concluded is the Copenhagen climate conference on 7-18 December 2009. Five negotiating sessions at official level have been held this year to prepare the agreement, the final round from 2 to 6 November in Barcelona.

EU position

The EU is pressing for a global, ambitious, comprehensive and legally binding international treaty that will prevent global warming from reaching the dangerous levels. The global warming average temperature needs to be kept below 2°C above the pre-industrial level in order to prevent the worst impacts of climate change,.

Scientific evidence shows that, to put global emissions on a trajectory that is compatible with respecting this temperature ceiling, industrialised countries need to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 while developing countries need to limit their rapid emissions growth to around 15-30% below projected business as usual levels in 2020. Global emissions will have to peak by 2020 at the latest, be cut by at least 50% of 1990 levels by 2050 and continue to decline thereafter.

The EU has shown leadership by committing unconditionally to cut its emissions to at least 20% below 1990 levels by 2020. It is implementing the climate and energy package (see IP/09/628 ) as well as a programme of energy efficiency measures to achieve this. Moreover, it has committed to scale up its emission cut to 30% on condition that other industrialised countries agree to make comparable reductions and developing countries contribute adequately to a global deal.

However, emission targets put forward by industrialised countries so far add up to a reduction of only around 10-17% below 1990 levels by 2020, while the more economically advanced developing countries have offered little in terms of concrete action to control their emissions.

The European Council of 29-30 October committed the EU and Member States to contribute a fair share of the estimated €22-50 billion in additional international public finance that developing countries will need annually by 2020 under an ambitious agreement. A ll countries, except the least developed, should contribute to this total through an agreed global contribution key based on countries' emission levels and ability to pay. Emission levels should have a considerable weight in the key and this should increase over time. Developing countries would be net recipients of international public finance.

The EU is also committed to providing its fair share of 'fast-start' financing to help developing countries build up their capacities to combat climate change over the period 2010-2012. The EU’s contribution will be decided in the light of the outcome of the final agreement. The European Commission estimates a global total of €5-7 billion could be needed annually over the three years following an ambitious global agreement.

State of play

Progress during the five negotiating sessions held this year has been slower than hoped for. At the Barcelona meeting last progress was made in streamlining the negotiating text on a number of technical issues. However, considerable work is still needed and consequently doubts have been voiced over whether a fully fledged treaty can be completed in Copenhagen as originally intended.

The EU hopes this will still be possible, but should this not be the case the minimum outcome in Copenhagen must be a strong framework agreement covering the essential building blocks of the new treaty and a deadline for completing it. The essential elements are: (an ambitious set of emission reduction commitments by developed countries including the United States; adequate action by developing countries to curb their emissions growth); and a financial deal to assist developing countries in mitigating their emissions and adapting to climate change.

In Barcelona the EU underlined its readiness to do everything to complete a fully-fledged treaty as soon as possible .

The international negotiations are being conducted on two parallel 'tracks'. On one track the 194 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which include the U.S., are discussing long-term cooperative action to combat climate change. On the other track the 184 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which do not include the U.S., are discussing post-2012 emission reduction commitments for industrialised countries except the U.S.

The EU has made clear its preference for this two-track approach to lead to a single, legally binding international treaty. This must incorporate and build on the essential elements of the Kyoto Protocol, such as emission reductions by industrialised countries, market-based mechanisms, accounting rules for changes in emissions due to land use, land use change and forestry, and a strong compliance regime.

A single treaty would have the benefit of creating a single institutional framework for all Parties requiring one ratification process. It would also bring all developed countries under one international climate regime. The treaty needs to be ratified in time to enter force on 1 January 2013.

The EU will honour all its commitments and obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, regardless of the outcome of the Copenhagen process.

Next steps

As host of the Copenhagen conference, Denmark will hold an informal meeting of ministers from around the world in Copenhagen on 16-17 November to finalise preparations for the conference.

A further meeting may also be held of the U.S.-led Major Economies Forum, which brings together 17 major economies that are collectively responsible for around 80% of global emissions, but no date has been fixed.

Further information:

DG Environment pages on future climate action


Key EU objectives for a new UN climate change agreement:

  • It should be global in terms of participation, comprehensive in scope and legally binding.

  • It should be ambitious enough to prevent global warming exceeding 2°C above the pre-industrial temperature (equivalent to around 1.2°C above the temperature today).

  • It should reflect the international scientific consensus as represented by the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

  • Global greenhouse gas emissions should peak by 2020 at the latest, be at least halved from 1990 levels by 2050 and continue to decline thereafter.

  • Industrialised countries must take the lead by cutting their collective emissions by around 30% below 1990 levels by 2020.

  • Developing countries as a group should limit their rapid emissions growth by achieving by 2020 a substantial deviation - in the order of 15-30% - below the currently predicted emissions growth rate.

  • It must create incentives to slow and eventually stop tropical deforestation. It should set the objectives of reducing gross tropical deforestation by at least 50% by 2020 compared to current levels and halting global forest cover loss altogether by 2030 at the latest.

  • It should include global targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation by 10% and from international maritime transport by 20% by 2020, compared to 2005 levels.

  • It should include a Framework for Action on Adaptation to climate change aimed at building a more climate-resilient society and increasing adaptation assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable developing countries.

  • Provisions on financing research, development, deployment and diffusion of technologies should be part of the agreement, with the aim of substantially increasing private and public energy-related research, development and deployment from current levels.

  • It should include a significant scaling up of public and private financial flows – including through the carbon market – to help developing countries with adaptation, mitigation, deforestation reduction, technology and capacity building activities.

  • It should include enlargement and reform of the international carbon market in order to drive low-carbon investments and achieve global emission objectives cost-efficiently. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation mechanism should be reformed to improve their effectiveness and environmental integrity, and to broaden participation in the CDM, particularly by the least developed countries. New sectoral crediting and trading mechanisms should be established for highly competitive sectors in more advanced developing countries, and the CDM phased out for these.

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