The Estonian Presidency does not see room for stronger commitments in emissions reduction. Activists say it is unavoidable.

“COP23 was not the most headline-making climate meeting we’ve seen, but it was a place where a lot of serious, important work got done,” a representative of the Estonian presidency in the Council of the EU told EURACTIV Slovakia. The rotating Presidency represented the 28 Member States at the climate conference in Bonn last week.

The official says that for the EU the most important achievement is the progress made towards the Paris Work Programme, echoing the words of the Commission’s spokesperson Anna-Kaisa Itkonen. The Programme aims to translate the common climate target into comparable national commitments.

Both officials believe, however, there is still a lot of work to be done before COP24, which will take place next year in Katowice, Poland. Part of the job is up to Poland itself. Until now, the country had been blocking the EU’s ratification of the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol. The Amendment specifies commitments of the parties until 2020, financial obligations included.

At COP23, the EU announced its intention to deposit the ratification instruments of the Doha Amendment by the end of 2017. The Presidency official considers it a “significant” achievement.

Talaona Dialogue launched

Climate Action Network Europe (CAN), a non-governmental organisation, considers “the biggest achievement of COP23” the launch of the Talanoa Dialogue.

The new process should result in increased national commitments in order to achieve the main goal of the Paris Agreement – limiting the temperature rise to 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels. The current national commitments will not suffice.

The Talanoa Dialogue was mentioned in the Paris Agreement, but defined only at the recent conference in Bonn. It carries the name of a traditional approach used in Fiji and the Pacific to engage in “an inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue”.

“The Talanoa Dialogue, as adopted by the COP, will provide a space for NGOs and others to create the necessary momentum for countries to start looking at how they can increase their 2030 target,” Wendel Trio, CAN Director, explained to EURACTIV Slovakia.

The climate effort has to triple

CAN believes that EU will have to reconsider its emissions reduction target for the 1990-2030 period. Trio points out to the calculation of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), according to which countries are currently doing only one third of the effort needed to keep the temperature rise below 2°C. 

“All parties will need to do more, including the EU,” says Trio applauding the speech of the Dutch Prime Minister calling for the rise of EU's 2030 emissions reduction target from 40 percent to 55 percent. “We hope this statement gets support from other EU Member States,” said CAN’s Director.

According to Estonian Presidency, the current target of 40 percent reduction is already “very ambitious”. “We are, however, considering how we can enhance our ambition and make sure we deliver,” the official adds. The Presidency relies on the agreed reform of the EU Emissions Trading System for 2021-2030, which, according to the official, makes the ETS “more robust and effective”.

The European Commission sees the opportunity to discuss more ambitious emissions reduction targets in 2023. From that year on, the parties to the Paris Agreement will meet every five years to review the progress toward the 2°C objective.

“The spirit of Paris is very much alive,” Itkonen underlined for EURACTIV Slovakia.

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The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 785277.