Europeans appeared divided over the bloc’s own climate change targets for 2030, and UN climate change talks in Warsaw failed to deliver any significant breakthroughs.
Debate over climate change policy within the EU gathered momentum in 2013, but there was a disappointing lack of progress at the global level. In March, the European Commission released a paper outlining potential climate and energy targets up to 2030, to replace existing goals for 2020. As the Commission noted, the EU’s next round of targets will shape its negotiating position in UN talks on a global climate change deal that is supposed to be completed in 2015. In October, a group of 13 EU member states calling themselves the Green Growth Group released a document calling for ambitious post-2020 targets, reforms to the EU’s carbon-trading system, and an activist position in the UN process. The group consists almost entirely of western and northern EU states and includes only two (Estonia and Slovenia) from the 2014 enlargement group. This points to a division within the EU over the balance between environmental and economic concerns. Poland, with its coal-heavy economy, is often cited as the hardest-line opponent of a strong climate change agenda. There was criticism when Warsaw was chosen to host the annual round of UN climate negotiations this year.
In the end, the Warsaw talks were overshadowed by splits largely beyond Poland’s control. Developing countries and NGOs accused Western states of failing to make serious offers of aid to compensate for the costs and damage of climate change. The negotiators finally agreed that all states should publish climate change strategies by early 2015 before potentially decisive talks in Paris. Critics observed that this timetable leaves relatively little time for serious negotiations on the basis of the national plans once they are published. In 2014, Europeans will have to resolve their differences over the 2030 targets. Warsaw produced some small success including the launch of a fund backed by the UK, Norway, and the US to tackle deforestation. But there is a strong sense that the UN talks lack momentum, and further tensions lie ahead with major non-Western economies and carbon emitters including China and India, making real deals on climate change difficult.