The agreement, reached in Paris in December 2015 (as reported on in our article: The Paris Climate Change Agreement: Overview) opens for signing/ratification this week in New York (22 April 2016). It is anticipated that this will be a well published ceremony and Christiana Figueres, the outgoing Executive Secretary of UNFCCC, has optimistically stated that it could be in effect two years earlier than the originally planned date of 2020. In this article we consider recent communications by the European Commission (“Commission”) and the UK’s House of Commons’ Energy and Climate Change (select) Committee (“ECCC”).

Initial EU level proposals

On 2 March 2016 the Commission published a communication to the European Parliament and the Council assessing the implications of Global Climate Change Agreement for the EU as well as the next steps for the implementation of the Global Climate Change Agreement. Amongst the steps taken is authorisation for a representative to sign and ratify the Global Climate Change Agreement at the ceremony on 22 April 2016 on behalf of the EU.

EU priorities

The 2030 energy and climate change framework agreed by the European Council in its Conclusions of October 2014 are to remain. The latest decision supports pursuing these goals in light of the Global Climate Change Agreement. These conclusions set an EU-wide target of 40% greenhouse gas emissions reduction for 2030, as well as renewable energy and energy efficiency targets of at least 27% from the 1990 base level. In light of the Global Climate Change Agreement, the Commission seeks fast tracking of legislative proposals to implement the 2030 framework (within the next 12 months) by Parliament and Council and include: 

  • Revising the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS); 
  • Introducing legislation to set up a “reliable and transparent climate and energy governance mechanism and to streamline the planning and reporting requirements related to climate and energy for the post-2020 period”; and 
  • Implementing policy proposals to adapt the EU’s regulatory framework in order to prioritise energy efficiency and maintain the momentum in development of renewable energy (including enabling demand response and enhancing flexibility).

In line with the proposals in the Global Climate Change Agreement, the Commission advocates shoring up the role of private investment in the transition to a low emission economy by ensuring that the Investment Plan for Europe promotes emissions reduction and energy efficiency in the Single Market and ensuring that the EU and its Member States contribute their share of the developed countries’ climate finance (USD 100 billion per year by 2020).

Initial UK priorities

In the UK, some steps have also been taken to consider implications of the Global Climate Change Agreement on domestic policy. The ECCC, being a select committee, has identified that one of its 2015 – 2020 priorities is to influence the Government’s long-term approach to meeting climate targets (see its report published on 18 December 2015). This includes focussing on international action such as the likely EU policy approach. Of course (subject perhaps to the outcome of the UK’s referendum in June 2016 on membership of the EU) the UK’s intended nationally determined contributions (“INDCs”) are part of the EU’s INDCs, and thus EU policy decisions are relevant for what is decided in the UK. 

The Global Climate Change Agreement is also being considered as part of the ECCC’s inquiry into setting the fifth carbon budget under the UK’s Climate Change Act 2008 (which budget is required to be set by the end of June 2016 and about which another committee, the Committee on Climate Change, has a major advisory role). Interestingly the fifth carbon budget will consider the UK’s ambitions from the perspective of the UK’s Climate Change Act 2008 which refers to holding global temperature rise at 2 degrees centigrade whereas the Global Climate Change Agreement’s goal is “well below” 2 degrees and to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees”.

Comment

Whilst the dust has settled and the excitement of reaching the first global agreement on climate change has somewhat worn off, the initial responses taken at EU and UK level appear to reiterate existing positions. In real terms this is not surprising. Those existing positions formed the basis of the INDCs (which most probably will become “NDCs” under the Global Climate Change Agreement) and both the EU and the UK were part of the most advanced parties in terms of climate change policy. What will be interesting is to see how strongly policy is implemented, and in other parts of the world how quickly policy is generated and enforced. If the optimism that buoyed governments and businesses in the run up to the climate change negotiations in December 2015 and the ongoing public engagement on the issues proves reliable, implementation of the Global Climate Change Agreement may begin ahead of schedule.