EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY SCORECARD 2015

Climate change

61 - Climate change

Grade: B
Unity 3/5
Resources 4/5
Outcome 6/10
Total 13/20
Scorecard 2012: A- (16/20)
Scorecard 2013: B (13/20)
Scorecard 2014: B- (11/20)

Despite internal divisions, Europeans remain leaders on climate change, yet hard diplomacy lies ahead.

Climate change diplomacy has focused on the February 2015 Paris summit, which aims to succeed where the 2009 Copenhagen conference failed by agreeing a global treaty on limiting carbon emissions. The major way-markers in the run-up to this goal in 2014 were a leaders’ summit at the UN in September 2014, EU talks in October, and a final preparatory meeting for Paris in Peru in November–December.

The September summit was largely an awareness-raising exercise, although it saw steps towards combating deforestation, a theme Denmark has prioritised. Denmark and France were also among states making pledges to a fund to help developing nations adapt to climate change, but critics ranging from China to Western NGOs have fiercely castigated Europe as a whole for pledging too little to this effort.

The October talks in Brussels resulted in an EU-wide commitment to cut carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030, although Poland and other eastern EU members won concessions in reflection of their reliance on coal-fuelled power plants. Climate activists argued that this deal compromised the EU’s achievement, but European officials were keen to emphasise their commitments as a model for others. Alongside Denmark and France, Austria, Germany, Portugal, Slovakia, and Sweden continue to lead EU climate policy, with Estonia, Ireland, Poland, and Romania dragging their feet. The deal in Brussels was overshadowed, however, by November’s bilateral US-China agreement on limiting emissions, indicating where the greatest influence on the process lies.

The Lima conference saw all governments commit to making similar pledges before Paris, although proposals for a rigorous review of each country’s commitments were dropped. It is not clear how meaningful many pledges will be, and most observers believe the final Paris negotiations will be extremely tough. Although the EU remains a genuine leader on climate change, a very strong binding framework on climate action is out of reach, and the strength of the EU’s example on carbon reductions is offset by inevitable complaints about funding from developing nations.