Making policies work

COP21: A historic, but still fragile milestone for climate change


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“The Paris climate deal is a clear step in the right direction, and gives hope on the ability of the world leaders to organise collective action to address global threats” say Alisa Herrero Cangas and Hanne Knaepen in their latest blog.

However, the Paris deal also leaves little room for complacency. The countries’ pledges made so far are insufficient to meet the highly ambitious target of limiting global warming to 2°C (and ideally 1.5°C). And the EU still has a lot of work to do to make its policies coherent with sustainable development targets. 2016 will be an extremely busy year for the world to gear up action to reach a carbon neutral world by 2050.

Quotes from Dr Hanne Knaepen

“European and African countries both refer to the agreement as a “success”. This is a historic milestone. Global climate negotiations are usually characterised by strongly diverging positions, on the basis of principles of responsibility, fairness and justice. Africa is explicitly mentioned in the Paris Agreement, a point that African countries have vehemently lobbied for.”

“The EU, together with the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) played a leading role in driving forward the “high ambition coalition”, joined by the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, and soon after by other countries, including “deal breakers” such as Brazil, Canada, Japan and the US.  This coalition put the necessary pressure on China and India, and other hardline countries like Saudi Arabia and South Africa.”

“Despite being lauded for many reasons, the Paris Agreement remains fragile. It contains no mandatory scheme, or a compliance enforcement mechanism. Nations have not committed to leaving fossil fuels on the ground, and major emitting sectors, such as aviation and maritime transport, and agriculture have been omitted.”

“The pledges made will accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, but they are not enough to meet the highly ambitious target of limiting global warming to 2C.  This risks undermining the Sustainable Development Goals. Governments will need to take radical solutions, immediately. This means that politicians will need to make very difficult choices not always in their short-term interest, including, giving up fracking, putting a higher price on carbon, ending fossil fuel subsidies, subsidising renewables.”

“The tension between the right-to-development and zero emissions by 2050, a continuous stumbling block between China and India, and industrialised countries, is also apparent among African countries such as Nigeria and South Africa. What is needed is a complete change that makes green energy competitive on its own merits. Otherwise, massive carbon cuts will probably not happen.”

“Despite playing a leadership role, the EU’s credibility was weakened by its policy incoherence for sustainable development. For example, the EU negotiating position opposed discussing trade measures and including Intellectual Property Rights in the COP21 deal, giving the TTIP precedence over environmental regulations, and COP21 outcomes.”

For more information or to set up an interview get in touch with Emily Barker at or on +32474123473

Sustainable food systemsClimate changeAfricaEurope