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Briefings and background notes

Climate change: The European Union towards COP21 and beyond


Bauer, S., Brandi, C., Herrero, A., Maxwell, S., Voituriez, T. 2015. Climate change: The European Union towards COP21 and beyond. Bonn etc.: The European Think Tanks Group (ETTG).

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Developing countries – especially the most vulnerable – need a robust deal at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris, as well as an ambitious action plan to ramp up action afterwards. The European Union (EU) can help finalise the deal by offering more in the key negotiating fora, especially on adaptation support and finance. But the real work will begin after Paris.

As COP21 gets underway, this latest briefing comes from the European Think Tanks Group – written by Steffen Bauer (DIE), Clara Brandi (DIE), Alisa Herrero Cangas (ECDPM), Simon Maxwell (ODI) and Tancrède Voituriez (IDDRI) – and looks at the challenges and opportunities for EU climate action at COP21 and beyond.

While the EU must support developing countries with mitigation and adaptation, climate change and energy have become central issues in foreign and security policy, and the EU needs to look beyond 2030 and focus on sustainability issues up to 2050, both within Europe and beyond its borders.

The report

Read or download the report (via the German Development Institute) here: 

Download (PDF, 865KB)

Finding solutions at COP21 and beyond

(1) A dynamic and legally binding agreement

The Paris Agreement must be balanced, durable, dynamic and transparent. To be a credible frontrunner, the EU must provide a coordinated and ambitious contribution of annual public climate finance to the $100 billion political target. The EU should give adaptation the same priority and urgency in the Paris Agreement as it does mitigation. It should ensure that commitments made at COP21 are complementary to the Addis Ababa agreements on financing for sustainable development.

(2) Ambition and consistency

The EU should be open to raising the ambition of its 2030 emissions target and a 55- 60% reduction target by the mid-2030s. But this requires a nuanced approach to governing EU climate policy – and a high-level commitment to an Energy Union strategy.

(3) Accountability for the private sector and local action

A comprehensive framework for non-state and sub-national actors would improve transparency, facilitate knowledge exchange and inspire governments to increase their ambitions. To accelerate progress, we need a coalition of ‘friends of the action agenda’ and the EU could mobilise SMART climate action.

Making it happen

Climate change should be reflected in the forthcoming Global Strategy on Foreign Policy and Security Issues. Climate action should be compatible with development and central to the European Consensus on Development. To make climate action happen, the EU should build stronger alliances with groups of developing countries – most notably the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states.

About the European Think Tanks Group

The European Think Tanks Group (ETTG) is made up of five like-minded leading European international cooperation think tanks:

Photo courtesy of The World Bank.

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Cross-cutting TopicsEU foreign and development policySustainable food systemsBriefing papersBriefings and background notesClimate changeAfricaCaribbeanEuropePacific

External authors

Steffen Bauer (DIE)

Clara Brandi (DIE)

Simon Maxwell (ODI)

Tancrède Voituriez (IDDRI)