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Discussion Papers (series)

The ice is broken, what’s next?

How the EU and middle-income countries work together on climate change


Mariella Di Ciommo, with Sanne Thijssen and Meritxell Sayós Monràs. ECDPM paper, September 2018

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More advanced and middle-income developing countries (MADCs and MICs), some of which are major emitters of greenhouse gases, have come under increasing pressure to do their part on climate change. This paper looks at the EU’s attempts to find a common ground with these countries in the fight against climate change. And it’s a tale with multiple endings.

On the one hand, European diplomacy has been rather successful in breaking the ice with countries in the South. The EU’s role as a bridge-builder and technical advisor could be of phenomenal value to make progress in preparation of the Conference of Parties (COP24) in Katowice in December 2018 and to avoid frustration in the Talanoa dialogue. On the other hand, the EU’s efforts in partner countries have had more mixed results, as the contrasting examples of China and Ghana show. Outcomes largely depend on each country’s conditions and the EU’s own constraints and assets.

Although the 25% mainstreaming target for climate change proposed for the 2021-2027 EU budget is welcomed, the EU could be more ambitious. A new EU external financing architecture and the programming phase will significantly influence how partner countries and the EU will collaborate on climate change.

In 2019, the new European Commission will set the parameters for such collaboration. A more interest-driven EU might neglect climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals. Individual MICs and MADCs will be affected, depending on their alignment with the EU objectives, their commitment to climate action and their interest in stronger ties with the EU. Much work remains to be done for a socially fair low-carbon transition. The EU should closely work with these countries to realise such a vision.

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In addition to structural support by ECDPM’s institutional partners: The Netherlands, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and Austria, this publication also benefits from funding by UK aid from the Department for international Development (DFID), United Kingdom.

Photo: Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, United States, via unsplash.

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Discussion Papers (series)Middle Income Countries (MIC)