Merkel raises the level of ambition

By Dr Simon BuckleGrantham Institute

Brandenburg gateThere was some good news last week from the annual Petersberg Climate Dialogues held on 14-15 July in Berlin.  The Petersberg meetings were instituted after the perceived failure of the Copenhagen summit in 2009 in order to support the UNFCCC talks. They are co-chaired by Germany and the country hosting the next Conference of the Parties meeting, in this case Peru.

Chancellor Merkel took the opportunity in her address to signal renewed ambition for climate action, perhaps disappointing some of those who had been hoping (or even working) for a reversal of Germany’s commitment to decarbonisation.  As reported by EurActiv, Merkel said that “A turnaround is needed – worldwide“.  Making it clear that she intends to re-energise climate change mitigation, she noted that Germany aims to cut its own CO2 emissions by 40% by 2020 (relative to 1990 levels) and that “Europe will be making an “ambitious contribution” to the forthcoming UNFCCC negotiations that should result in a new climate agreement at the Paris conference in 2015.  Of course, the current European Commission proposal to be discussed in October is somewhat less ambitious, reflecting largely East European concerns, and proposes a 40% reduction of EU-wide emissions only by 2030.

The final statement by the German and Peruvian co-Chairs repeated the point I have been making over the past few months to a number of national climate negotiators and the UNFCCC Secretariat and which was the subject of my 3 July blog. This is that “there was a need for [national] contributions in aggregate to meet the overall ambition of maintaining temperature increase below 2°C.  In order to ensure this happens, some Ministers acknowledged that a process for collectively considering intended nationally determined contributions was necessary.”  Progress, if not yet complete agreement.

The sense of greater momentum was reinforced by the announcement by the Vice President of the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission, Xie Zhenhua, that as part of its contribution to the Paris agreement, it may set a date for the peaking of its own emissions.

Just a couple of months before the UN Secretary General’s climate summit on 23 September, the political climate looks a lot brighter than it has for a long while.  Achieving what I see as the first and most significant step on the global mitigation pathway – a peak in global fossil-related carbon dioxide emissions, ideally before 2030 – is the sort of inspirational but realistic target that leaders should now embrace for the Paris agreement if we are to make the most of this opening window of opportunity to limit future climate risks.

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