From the TUC

EU’s Paris Protocol – time to bring citizens to the table

05 Mar 2015, by in Environment

EU Environment Ministers meet on 6 March to discuss and probably sign off the EU’s contribution to the Paris climate change talks, December 2015. The next day marks the national Time to Act on Climate Change march in London. The EU Commission’s proposal, The Paris Protocol: a blueprint for tackling global climate change beyond 2020 – not widely publicised, it must be said – represents a 27-nation combined submission to the UN. Its headlines include a 40% cut in carbon emissions across the EU by 2030 and demands for an early start and a five yearly review from 2020.

Massive changes in the world of work lie ahead with such commitments. Yet, as it mustn’t talk about Europe, the government doesn’t seem to have made a public announcement about the EU proposals, even though it’s potentially one of the most important international treaty commitments the government will make.

“The just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work” reappeared in the UN’s 88-page draft treaty agreed last month. A relief to see core trade union issues back in play at the UN, and one reason why this Saturday unions are backing the Time to Act national demonstration in London.

But the EU’s Paris Protocol says nothing about consulting the “people’”, even though the UN draft treaty agreed in Lima proposed that governments should:

“Provide meaningful and regular opportunities for the effective engagement of experts from Parties, relevant international organizations, civil society, indigenous peoples, women, youth, academic institutions, the private sector, and sub national authorities nominated by their respective countries.”

Highlights of the EU’s proposals for the Paris Protocol:

  • To enter into force when countries accounting for 80% of global emission have signed up, representing 40 gigatonnes (billion tonnes) of emissions. Hopefully, this would be well before the 2020 start date currently envisaged for the treaty.
  • As the EU accounts for 9% of global emission and falling, the US (11%) and China (25%), for the Protocol to be effective, it will need much broader coverage and commitment, with governments tabling their highest possible levels of ambition.
  • The Protocol should be reviewed every five years, starting 2020.
  • The transformation into low emission, climate resilient economies will only be achieved through large scale shifts in investment patterns, private and public, and linked to the UN’s global partnership for poverty eradication.

The EU’s commitment to the Paris 2015 climate treaty

  • Type of commitment:  Absolute reduction from 1990 base year.
  • Coverage: Economy Wide
  • Scope: All six greenhouse gases
  • Period 2021-2030
  • Reduction: at least 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in 2030.
  • % of Emissions Covered: 100%.
  • Agriculture, forestry and other land uses: Yes.
  • Net Contribution of International Market Mechanisms: None

We would agree that, “The development and deployment of climate technologies has an essential role to play in meeting climate change objectives, as well as in contributing to job creation and sustainable economic growth.”

But so much is at stake in the world of work – in the way we generate power, in the switch from petrol to electric vehicles that has hardly begun, the divestment that must come from fossil fuels, and the need for massive investment in our energy intensive industries. If this document is meant to be a “blueprint” to the world, it’s remarkably short on “engagement of civil society.”

Building public support will take place well outside the EU’s high minded but oddly inward looking processes, as in central London on 7 March.