It's Time for the U.S. to Step Back, and the E.U. to Step Up on Climate Change

Wednesday, December 5, 2018 - 13:18

As the UN climate change conference opens in Poland, world leaders must face up to two inescapable realities. First, global temperatures are rising at a catastrophic rate and, if they continue to do so, will result in irreversible destruction to our people and our planet. Second, it’s not too late for the world end these big rises. This, above all else, is what these global negotiations boil down to.

To end big rises, we have the tools. What's missing is the political leadership from those who accept that climate change is real – and it's putting us on course for disaster.  That’s the challenge in Poland’s coal mining town of Katowice, which hosts the meeting.

So, what’s the current state of affairs as negotiations begin? In short: the US needs to step back, and it’s time for the EU to step up.

It’s a great myth that Team Trump has ‘walked away’ from the UN negotiations on climate change. Correct, the U.S., under Trump, has pulled out of the global deal on climate change (the ‘Paris Agreement’). But the U.S. still has a seat at the table, and with it, a damaging agenda, which ActionAid exposed during the recent negotiations in Bangkok.

Withdrawing from the Agreement did not come into full effect in time for the UN climate change talks in Poland. So that means as negotiations begin, the U.S. is still in the room. But while the presence of Team Trump at the talks could be damaging, it does not have to be so. Isolating Team Trump, who reject the science on climate change, is the only viable pathway. Hiding behind them leaves politicians complicit.

At this year’s climate talks, countries will agree ‘the rulebook’ to implement the Paris Agreement. The climate talks are being held in the EU’s back yard, so the bloc must play an influential role to ensure a fair and ambitious outcome to make the Paris Agreement real. This is how we bring down both national and global emissions and how we fulfil the promises made in Paris in 2015. 

‘The 5 Tests: Keeping the Paris promises to end big rises’ 

ActionAid, which has observers monitoring the conference in Poland, has set out the five tests for the talks that the EU leadership - and others - should take forward as the negotiations get underway. They are:

  1. Rich countries delivering on the promised $100bn per year;
  2. Fair and urgent contributions for reducing country-level carbon emissions;   
  3. Ensure that climate actions protect – and do not threaten - human rights;
  4. Rejecting the ‘false solutions’ to climate change such as ‘Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage’; 
  5. Protections and support for people who are living with the effects of sea level rises, extreme weather and the unpredictable impacts of climate.

Each of these tests is a practical step forward towards real action to reduce carbon emissions, end the big temperature rises that we know are coming and protect the people most affected. There's a moment here for the E.U. to demonstrate that it can take forward, together as a bloc, the changes that are needed at global level. 

In Poland, E.U. leaders have an opportunity to seize. It's time for them to step up.