Mosaic of people pushing world leaders to act at Durban climate talks. Picture by Ainhoa Goma/Oxfam under CC License.
The expectations for the 2011 climate conference in Durban were extremely low, as countries were dealing with a deepening economic crisis. Yet, an agreement was reached that some called a triumph for European climate diplomacy. This is noteworthy as European climate leadership had increasingly been called into question after the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. The EU’s diplomatic alignment with small island states and the least developed countries proved crucial for reaching the final agreement now known as the Durban Platform.
Going forward Europe can only maintain a credible leadership role if it spurs its climate action at home. A recent study by the European Commission showed that a more ambitious EU carbon target would have a much lower total impact on the economy than previously expected. However, decisions to raise the 2020 emissions reduction target and to strengthen the EU Emission Trading Scheme remain outstanding. The crisis of the Eurozone and the lack of unity in an enlarged EU are currently challenging the EU’s ability and willingness to lead the climate debate.
The European Union office of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung commissioned Hans Verolme, a Berlin-based strategy adviser on international climate policy, to analyze European climate leadership in Durban and beyond. This discussion paper is intended to stimulate the debate on how the EU can enhance its alliance with other global climate frontrunners and address a changing world order. What steps does Europe have to take to underpin the EU’s climate leadership and ensure an ambitious future global agreement?