Opinion: Paris Agreement Five Years On – A Renewed Call for Leadership
The authors are the Ambassador of the European Union to China Nicolas Chapuis and the Ambassadors to China of the 27 EU Member States.
Last weekend – on the day that marked the five year anniversary of the Paris Agreement – a number of world leaders came together to celebrate and recognise the resolve of so many in working towards a safer, more resilient world with net-zero emissions. A world we can be proud to leave to our grandchildren.
During the past five years the determination of the international community has certainly been tested and our global community has been hit by a virus which has had long-lasting seismic impacts on our society and economies.
In the midst of this global pandemic, is it realistic to call for stronger global action to fight climate change? We say the case is now more pertinent than ever. Looking at the droughts in Africa, massive fires in Australia, floods in Pakistan and China, infrastructure collapsing in Siberia as permafrost melts, intense hurricanes in America and typhoons in Asia, a more pertinent question might be: Can we afford to let things worsen?
Even before the pandemic, the European Union committed to leading a green transition. Back in December 2019, the European Commission launched the European Green Deal – a new growth model and roadmap to achieve climate neutrality in the EU by 2050. Now, a year later, we are aligning our policies in areas ranging from energy to industry, farming, food, or biodiversity with our sustainability goals.
This is now the EU’s action plan for recovery from the pandemic. Our– “Next Generation EU” recovery package and our next long-term budget earmarks more than half a trillion euros to address climate change.
The science is irrefutable – for future prosperity, we must move beyond the harmful carbon economy and invest in greening the global economy. We cannot afford not to.
To reach climate neutrality by 2050, on 11 December the EU leaders unanimously agreed on our 2030 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% compared to 1990 levels. It will provide predictability for our businesses, industry and citizens and further accelerate the fast decrease in the costs of low carbon technologies.
We know our good intentions for a green recovery in Europe will only work if we can convince others to join us. Not only must we in Europe press ahead with our own ambitious plans for a green transition; we need to bring international partners on board too.
On 22 September, at the 75th Session of The United Nations General Assembly, President Xi announced that China aims to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. The EU welcomed this ambitious long-term objective as a very important step in the right direction.
On 12 December at the event celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement, President Xi announced additional commitments for 2030. These enhanced targets provide further information on how China intends to achieve its climate ambitions and confirm the intention to move progressively towards clean energy.
The pace of implementation of these commitments will directly influence the date of China’s emissions peak. Other factors such as the launch of the Chinese national Emissions Trading System will also play an important role. Every year gained by China to peak its emissions at a moderate level is a year gained to smoothen the trajectory toward net zero GHG emissions. We look forward to the update of China NDCs for 2030.
No government can tackle climate change alone. This is why we will pursue all avenues of cooperation to achieve more together. We look forward to discussing how to fulfil EU and China climate ambitions in the newly established EU-China High Level Environment and Climate Dialogue.
The ranks of the “net-zero club” are growing. Japan, like the EU, has adopted the 2050 climate neutrality goal. Others, such as South Africa and Republic of Korea, aim to achieve net-zero emissions around mid-century, with important details to be further clarified. Canada announced a new law on climate neutrality and President-elect Biden has indicated that the US will move in a similar direction.
There is finally a sense of a global momentum emerging towards keeping the promise of the Paris Agreement and securing our future on this planet. Net zero emission is becoming the new normal mid-century outlook for countries with very different historical and geographical circumstances.
Together with the delivery of the $100 billion of climate financing for developing countries, these must be the deliverables for the climate negotiations when they resume at COP26 in Glasgow next November.
We can avoid the most dramatic impacts of climate change. Our global, regional, national, local and individual recovery plans are an opportunity to ‘build back better’. We owe it to the next generation, they will have to bear the burden of climate change and pay off the debt of the recovery.
In recent years, the EU led the fight against climate change. Five years after the signing of the Paris Agreement, it is more important than ever that we all come forward with clear strategies for net-zero emissions and enhance our level of ambition for 2030. Small individual actions can also have a big collective impact. With climate neutrality as the objective, the world can mobilise its citizens - its best engineers, business people, policymakers, artists, academics and NGOs to better protect our planet together.
The views and opinions expressed in this opinion section are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial positions of Caixin Media.
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