In climate negotiations, the EU wants to continue to lead by example

Tina Kobilšek

From 1 to 14 November, the 26th session of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) will take place in Glasgow, with the participation of delegations of States Parties to the Convention and Parties to the Paris Agreement. As the country holding the presidency of the EU Council, Slovenia, together with the European Commission, will represent the EU in international relations, conduct negotiations with third countries and coordinate EU member states. Before the beginning of the conference, we talked with Slovenia’s lead COP26 negotiator, Tina Kobilšek.

Extreme weather events, global warming and the climate crisis are our reality. The latest findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in August also point to the urgency of action. What will our future look like if we do not act now?

Climate change is a reality. We need to act in a very short time to avoid major catastrophes. At the COP26 conference in Glasgow, important global negotiations will be held and agreements will be reached to reduce emission levels, adapt to climate change and arrange climate finance. Increasing climate ambitions is essential if we are to reduce or limit global warming to well below 2°C, and even better to 1.5°C, compared to the pre-industrial era, and to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

What role does the UN Climate Conference play in the fight against climate change?

Climate change has been a focus since 1992, when the international community at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit recognised that joint action was needed to protect people and the environment and to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the most important international agreement on climate action, was adopted. In 1997 (COP3), the Parties signed the Kyoto Protocol, which for the first time introduced legally binding emission reduction targets in developed countries, and in 2015 (COP21) world leaders agreed on ambitious new targets in the fight against climate change and adopted the Paris Agreement, which includes all developed and developing countries.

The 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP26) will be hosted by the United Kingdom in partnership with Italy, after a one-year break due to COVID-19, and also for the first time after the entry into force of the Paris Agreement (on 1 January 2021). This will also be the moment when a review and assessment of the revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of greenhouse gas emission reductions that countries were required to transmit to the UNFCCC Secretariat under the Paris Agreement will be made. The EU submitted them at the end of last year. Against this background, COP26 in Glasgow is expected to be one of the most important climate change conferences since the adoption of the Paris Agreement.

What are the main objectives of COP26 in Glasgow?

The main objective of COP26 is to make progress in raising ambitions in three areas; reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the extent that global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees, adapting to climate change and mobilising additional financial resources in line with the commitments given to developing countries. In particular, fulfilling the promise of a financial target will help to advance other topics; developing partner countries link funding to maintaining mutual trust.

An important objective of the Conference is also the completion of work on the Implementation Rules of the Paris Agreement (called the Rulebook), in particular with regard to the important issue of Article 6, which remained unresolved at COP24 in Katowice and COP25 in Madrid. This would ensure that the Conference of the Parties adopts a decision on a common time frame and a transparency rule. Achieving progress towards these objectives is a key priority of the Slovenian Presidency.

Slovenia’s key objective will be to successfully represent the EU’s positions in international relations and in negotiations with third countries and negotiating teams.

Tina Kobilšek

What does the success of the Conference depend on?

Climate diplomacy before COP26 will be crucial, particularly in terms of persuading our negotiating partners, such as China, to increase their climate ambitions. These activities are led primarily by the EU by way of example – an ambitious 2030 target (reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% compared to 1990), and climate neutrality by 2050. We want to encourage other countries to follow our example.

Progress towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, based on the latest reviews of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC Synthesis Report), is insufficient at the global level, making the EU’s leadership all the more important.

One of the key aspects of the negotiations will also be climate finance, which is particularly important for developing countries. Developed countries have pledged to contribute USD 100 billion annually to developing countries to tackle climate change. This objective has not yet been achieved, which casts a poor light on donor countries.

The COP26 Climate Conference will take place during the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, which means that Slovenia will chair the day-to-day coordination meetings of the EU member states and, together with the European Commission, speak on behalf of the EU at plenary sessions and at various events, and negotiate with other countries and groups of countries. One of the key tasks of the Presidency is the preparation and coordination of the EU mandate for COP26.

As the country presiding the Council of the EU, Slovenia will represent the EU in negotiations in international context. At the global level, the EU plays an important, if not a decisive role, in the negotiations in the fight against climate change. What will the EU strive to achieve in Glasgow?

As the EU wants to continue to lead by example, it set to itself, within the European Climate Law, an ambitious target to reduce GHG emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990, in the context of achieving EU climate neutrality by 2050. The EU underlines the urgency of further discussions on its climate ambitions and on strengthening global climate ambitions, as this is the only way to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The EU also places great emphasis on adapting to climate change, as evidenced by the recently adopted EU Communication on climate change adaptation, submitted by the EU to the UNFCCC Secretariat. The purpose of the document is to present progress and recent action on climate change adaptation at the EU level and to show examples of best practices in this area across the EU and its member states.

How did the preparations for COP26 take place?

Due to the postponement of the conference for one year, global preparations for COP26 have been under way for almost two years. COVID-19 also had effects on the negotiation process, with preparations mostly taking place in virtual form. Preparations have been significantly stepped up since January this year, both at the expert level by the Heads of Delegations and at the ministerial level. A virtual three-week meeting of the subsidiary bodies of the Conference of the Parties took place in June, consultations of Heads of Delegations took place on a monthly basis, and the COP26 Presidency also organised a number of expert consultations on various issues. In this way, the Presidency wants to converge positions before the negotiations are held in Glasgow. In July, a ministerial meeting was held in London and at the end of September, the so-called pre-COP conference in Milan, which brought together about 50 ministers from different countries, including Slovenia.

What is the EU doing to achieve climate neutrality?

With the publication of the European Green Deal in December 2019, the EU has already set itself the objective of achieving climate neutrality at EU level by 2050, and later confirmed this commitment in the European Climate Law. The latter also sets an increase in the emissions reduction target of 55% by 2030, which will enable the long-term climate target to be reached by 2050. The EU is currently working on legislative proposals as part of the Fit for 55 package, which will modernise the EU’s climate and energy legislation with a view to achieving the ambitious climate targets set by the EU.

The EU will continue to lead the climate negotiations with its example, demonstrating that ambitious climate goals can be set in a way that contributes to the development of the economy and society. Through climate diplomacy and dialogue with third countries, we will endeavour to encourage all Parties to step up their action in the field of climate change mitigation, which will enable the target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees to be achieved.

Tina Kobilšek

As the country currently holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU, Slovenia is making every effort to successfully represent the views of the EU in international relations and in negotiations with third countries before and during the COP in Glasgow. Slovenia will step up action to achieve a successful outcome of the COP26 Climate Change Conference and strive for the finalisation and adoption of a comprehensive and effective rulebook for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

How can we as individuals contribute to climate protection?

By changing our management of natural resources and reducing pollution, we as individuals can contribute to the change for the better. The first step, raising awareness of the consequences of our actions, is the domain of many. Only by being aware of the problem can humanity, both on a global and individual level, begin to change its behaviour for a better tomorrow.

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