The world’s first, truly historic global agreement to decrease greenhouse emissions owes much to the EU argues London MEP and SERA member Seb Dance:
It is difficult to get agreement among the twenty-eight Member-States of the European Union, let only the 200 states that constitute the United Nations on an issue as complex as climate change.
The 2009 talks in Copenhagen, which ended in stalemate and recriminations, cast a long shadow, as did the cumbersome 50 pages of draft text produced in Lima the previous year.
Yet the deal struck in Paris confounded these doubts. On Saturday we secured an historic deal that exceeded all expectations. It’s scope wider than many thought possible, and consensus amongst participating countries unanimous. This represents the beginning of the crucial process of de-carbonising the world economy.
Shipping and aviation were exempt from the deal, while greater commitment is needed for a just transition and reliable assistance to energy-intensive industry. But we should recognise this deal for what it is: the world’s first truly historic global agreement to decrease greenhouse emissions.
It sends an important signal that our future lies not in continuing to burn fossil fuels. And it provides the framework to commit to a wave of new jobs in the renewable sector, as long as our own government follows through.
The EU was a major player. Membership effectively gave every EU state two seats at the table. In the talks, the European Commission showed strength and stamina, not backing down on crucial issues such as the review mechanism and leading by example on questions over technology transfer and finance.
Crucially it was the EU’s role in constructing what became known as the ‘coalition of ambition’ that became instrumental. The coalition consisted of a bloc of countries asking for the warming limit to be set at 1.5°C instead of the widely anticipated 2°C. It eventually grew to include the United States, Canada and Australia. This half-degree separation not only means the difference between remaining or disappearing for some Pacific Island states but demonstrates that the agreement is dynamic; if emissions of Greenhouse gasses fail to peak and fall in the coming years, there is now a guarantee of a review where further legally-binding enforcement becomes an option.
For Britain, our membership of the EU has been shown to be essential. The political support that the EU garnered across both developed and developing countries came about because of a united determination and respected record.
Goodness knows where we would have got had the UK relied solely on the environmental record of its Conservative government as an indicator of the path to be followed by the rest of the world!