Making policies work

EU needs to create uniformed climate change policy through strong political leadership

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Europe is set to play an important role in the negotiations on a new legally binding global treaty on climate change, and a new sustainable development framework to replace the Millennium Development Goal. 

Climate change is at the core of EU’s international security and foreign policy, as it potentially could have devastating effects on EU’s interests.  

However, despite an ambitious target of spending 20% of its Multiannual Financial Framework (2014-2020), and a renewed emphasis on climate change in foreign policy instruments, the EU will arrive at the UN Climate Summit on 23rd September with a weakened negotiating position.

This is outlined in a new report from the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM). 

The decision to reduce emissions by 2030 and climate change targets has been postponed to October, due to diverging interests between Member States. Failure to agree on ambitious targets will potentially have severe consequences for further negotiations and possibly the final United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change outcome.

The Commission reform proposed by President Juncker has triggered the alarms, particularly the merge of climate action and energy under one single Commissioner, the demotion of the sustainable development agenda, and the weakening of the climate action profile.  

The EU member states appear to be divided over the 2030 climate and energy policy proposals made by the European Commission. Member States from the Green Growth Group want clarity on the targets as this would attract investment and increase EU’s influence in international climate talks.  Coal-reliant Member States argue exactly the opposite: that setting an ambitious target would “leave the bloc with no cards to play”.

Alisa Herrero, Policy Officer for Strengthening European External Action Programme at ECDPM, explained: “Regrettably, the connection between climate action and sustainable development is left to Neven Mimica, Commissioner for Development and International Cooperation. Without political support at the highest level he will have difficulties to create synergies between the post-2015 development agenda and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change”.     

However, all is not lost. In its paper ECDPM explains that “If the EU wants to remain an effective global leader in combating climate change, Mr. Claude Juncker will need to backpedal and make changes to his Commission. There is no time for trial and error”.   

A number of proposals are made by ECDPM to ensure that climate change features high in EC’s political agenda: notably, upgrading the Vice President for Energy Union to a Vice-President for Climate Action; entrusting the High Representative with the mandate of coordinating the Sustainable Development Goals agenda in foreign policy; strengthening the EU External Action Service’s capacity in climate change (in both HQ and EUDs level) and ensuring that the new Commissioner for Development and International Cooperation pursues further integration of the environmental and development agendas, with a particular focus on mitigation and adaptation.  

The report is called ‘Run-up to 2015: A moment of truth for EU external climate action?’.

To arrange for interviews or for more information, please contact ECDPM’s Communications Officer, Emily Barker on +32 (0)2 237 43 81 or +32 (0)474 12 34 73 or

European external affairsAgricultureClimate changeEuropean Union (EU)Europe