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In Search for a New Climate Leader – Can the EU be a Force for Progress in International Climate Policy?

28 June 2018
Brussels, Belgium

The event aims at discussing the prospects for a leadership role of the European Union in international climate policy.

The Paris Agreement can without a doubt be considered a historic breakthrough in international climate policy. For the first time, all member states of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed on joint efforts to tackle dangerous climate change, including limiting global warming to well below 2ºC (or even 1.5ºC). This will require – among other things – carbon neutrality as fast as possible. After the historic success of Paris it became clear, however, that implementing the Paris Agreement would not be an easy task, as challenges such as raising ambition in national climate protection plans or addressing transparency and accountability remain. In addition, there have been severe changes within the global political framework that might pose a threat to a successful implementation process.

The withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement raised the question of who could function as a climate leader. The EU has increasingly established itself as an international leader in global environmental governance in general, including, for example, with respect to the protection of the ozone layer and biodiversity. It has been a driving force within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol, using ‘soft leadership’ and ‘leadership by example’ as its strategy. Although some involvements have not succeeded, the EU can still be considered a master at coalition building.

During the Paris Climate Summit it successfully functioned as a bridge builder and facilitator, enabling countries to consent to the historic climate agreement. In terms of diplomatic as well as economic power the European Union has the potential to function as a climate leader. It has a number of diplomatic skills and tools at its disposal as well as the economic power to support other countries not only in terms of financing mitigation policies, but also adaptation approaches to climate change. Despite all the potential, there still is a lot of work to do for the European Union and a lot of challenges to face. Even though the EU has already decreased its emissions by 24 per cent since 1990, more action is needed, particularly in terms of fulfilling its long-term 2050 emissions reduction goal of 80-95 per cent reduction.

The EU’s Nationally Determined Contribution under the UNFCCC is not in line with limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, let alone fulfill the 1,5 degrees Celsius temperature goal. Therefore it urgently needs to close the existing gap in credibility between what it has been advocating (a sustainable and low-carbon future) and what it can currently reach. At the same time its leadership ambitions are threatened by the financial crisis, the Brexit negotiations and especially by continuing centrifugal and polarizing forces that work within the union. It is therefore very important for the EU to find solutions to the diverging interests of its member states in energy and climate policy. Establishing better mechanisms to support policy coherence and paying attention to the burden-sharing principle could be important steps to take in order to bring those on board that tend to block climate ambition.

The event aims at discussing the prospects for a leadership role of the European Union in international climate policy. It wants to debate on the following leading questions:

  • Is the EU still a relevant stakeholder in in the international climate process and what can it do to secure its interests while at the same time pushing for more progress?
  • Can the EU fulfill all the relevant criteria to function as a climate leader after the US has left the Paris Agreement and what are the necessary instruments to use?
  • Will the EU be able to tackle the challenges associated with its own membership structure in terms of pushing for more ambition within its own climate and energy goals?
  • What can the EU do to play a constructive and facilitative role in preparing for COP 24 in Poland? How can it make sure that ambition is raised and that countries will agree on a rulebook for the implementation of the Paris Agreement in Katowice?
  • Are there any other potential climate leaders?
  • How can the EU use its diplomatic skills better in order to establish strong and broad alliances with other climate champions?   


10:30 - Welcome | Manuela Matthess, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Berlin & Sidonie Wetzig, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Brussels

10:40 - Input I: The Importance of Climate Diplomacy in Turbulent Political Times |  Arne Lietz, Member of the European Parliament

10:50 - Input II: Climate Leader EU? – Challenges and Potentials in Implementing the Paris Agreement | Dr. Susanne Dröge, Senior Fellow, Research Division Global Issues, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (tbc)

11:00 - Input III: In Need for a Global Climate Leader – Demands from Civil Society | Ulriika Arnio, Climate Action Network Europe

11:10 - Input IV: In Need for a Global Climate Leader – What role can China play? | Lina Li, Project Manager, Adelphi (tbc)

11:30 - Discussion

12:30 - End of Event


[This description was taken from]