What a difference a week might make for Europe’s climate ambition

(EurActiv, 29 Nov 2018) Progress in the Long Term Strategy for 2050 and at the climate conference in Katowice will be for nothing if European ministers allow disputes over the size of the next EU budget to roadblock important moves towards funding a zero-emissions energy transformation, write Raphael Hanoteaux and Markus Trilling.

Raphael Hanoteaux is the EU Policy Officer with CEE Bankwatch Network, and Markus Trilling is the Finance and Subsidies Policy Coordinator for Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe.

On Wednesday 28 November, the European Commission published its Long Term Strategy for 2050, in which it outlines various scenarios that the EU can follow in order to tackle the challenges of climate change by the middle of the century. Its most ambitious scenario calls for Europe to become ‘net-zero by 2050’, a workable model that must be adhered to if the continent is to avoid the projected costs of inaction that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned against.

Days after the release of the Long Term Strategy, the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change kicks off its annual Conference of the Parties in Katowice. The fact that this global meeting will be held in coal-heavy Poland epitomises the challenges Europe faces in moving away from fossil fuels while at the same time ensuring a just transition for the regions that have historically depended on extracting and burning coal for their livelihoods.

Between these two landmark events, European ministers gather in Brussels for important discussions about how the future €1.2 trillion EU budget after 2020 should be spent. Against this backdrop of the climate imperative however, Friday’s General Affairs Council still might miss the opportunity to set the appropriate parameters for the EU budget to ensure that Europe’s climate ambitions can be achieved and that the communities on the front lines of the energy transformation are not left behind.

To date discussions about the Multiannual Financial Framework have focused on the acrimonious question of what amount of resources so-called ‘net payers’ in the richer Member States should contribute to the pot, with many recipient countries of EU funding –primarily in central and eastern Europe – having dug their heels in against cuts of any kind.

Such a stumbling block is misfortunate, however, as the squabble over the size of the Budget masks a more pressing conversation about the political will among Member States to get spending plans right.

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EurActiv, 29 Nov 2018: What a difference a week might make for Europe’s climate ambition