With the proceedings in the meeting rooms bringing little reason for hope, the Madrid climate talks was on Wednesday energised by news from Brussels where the European Union announced its intention to increase its climate targets and make an additional ten per cent reduction in its emissions by 2030 from 1990 levels.
The announcement by EU, a 28-country bloc, which together is the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, came on a day when a group of about 200 climate activists and protestors, increasingly impatient with the reluctance of countries to increase their climate actions, barged inside the conference venue and inside the main negotiating hall where UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was among those present and listening to ministers making their country statements. The dramatic protests resulted in many activists being barred from entering the conference venue for the remaining time.
In its announcement, EU said it would bring in a climate law by March next year to commit itself to a net-zero emission status by 2050, and a comprehensive plan by middle of next year on increasing its emission reduction targets from the current 40 per cent of its 1990 levels by 2030 to at least 50 or even 55 per cent.
The EU is the first major emitter to respond to the growing chorus demanding countries to increase the ambition of their climate actions in light of several scientific reports that show that the world was not doing enough to prevent extreme impacts of climate change.
But the EU skirted the question of fulfilling its pre-2020 climate targets, including providing technology and finance to the developing countries. EU had promised to reduce its emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 on 1990 levels but it is not on track to meeting them.
The issue of unfulfilled pre-2020 climate actions has been repeatedly raised by India and other developing countries, and it was reiterated in the statement of the BASIC countries — the grouping of Brazil, South Africa, India and China — after their ministers met on Tuesday.
Their statement, released on Wednesday, said that progress on pre-2020 agenda would “be the benchmark of success” for the Madrid meeting. It also said that the Madrid meeting, in its final decisions, must “urge developed country parties to fulfill their commitments on providing finance, technology development and transfer of capacity building support to developing countries”.
“Commitments made by developed countries in the pre-2020 period must be honoured because the completion of pre-2020 agenda is of critical importance in building the basis for mutual trust and ambition in the post-2020 period. The pre-2020 gaps with regard to mitigation, adaptation, means of implementation, and reporting by developed countries must be assessed and closed, without transferring any burden on the developing countries. The pre-2020 agenda will be concluded when the pre-2020 ambition gaps have been close and not at the end of this conference,” the ministers insisted.
They demanded that a “two-year work programme” be established to “assess the pre-2020 progress and gaps, with a view to making the necessary arrangements to fill those gaps”.
The ministers also called for a conclusion of discussions on Article 6 of Paris Agreement, which calls for setting up of a new carbon market. This discussion is one of the main agendas of the Madrid meeting and, so far, countries, including India, Brazil and China, have taken irreconcilable positions on some of the provisions on this issue. The countries on the opposing sides of the arguments both insist that they would rather have no deal than settle for a bad deal. The issue is likely to remain unfinished and left for consideration of the next climate meeting in 2020.