Written by Dave Keating
This year’s U.N. climate summit scheduled to take place in Glasgow in November has been cancelled, with the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP) gathering postponed until next year. But climate campaigners are hoping that a smaller climate summit taking place in Berlin today under a different framework can agree the basic principles of how the Coronavirus recovery will be tied to climate action.
The Petersberg Climate Dialogue, which has been hosted by Germany annually for ten years, is going ahead today and tomorrow in virtual format, with environment and energy ministers from over 30 countries taking part via video link. The U.K., as president of the COP26 process, is co-organizing this year’s event.
Climate campaigners say the key thing to watch over the next two days will be whether countries will commit to making their Coronavirus economic recovery plans compatible with the Paris Agreement they signed in 2015. The agreement committed them to reduce global warming to no more than two degrees celsius by 2050.
“Merkel has become an icon of good leadership during COVID19, and she needs to use that also for climate,” said Jennifer Morgan, head of Greenpeace International, ahead of the video summit. “The postponement of COP26 can’t mean a delay in climate action. What we’re looking at is how countries respond or rebuild as we move along, and whether that comes together with the Paris Agreement or not. That will be as important as anything else.”
“So for example if countries are bailing out oil companies, coal companies, or other companies that are not moving on a fast trajectory to end the internal combustion engine, it will make it incredibly difficult for countries to come together to strengthen their nationally determined contribution.”
Christoph Bals from the NGO Germanwatch said Germany will be key to making sure the European Union’s economic response in particular will use the EU Green Deal put forward in December as the backbone of the bloc’s economic recovery plan, as has been requested by about half of EU member states.
“We expect a strong signal of international cooperation and solidarity, with the European Green Deal as the framework,” he said. “An interesting suggestion of President Von Der Leyen is to combine it with a white deal for the medical sector.” Germany’s role in pushing for this will be crucial not just because it is the largest country in the bloc, but also because it will take over the rotating EU presidency in on 1 July.
“Merkel may say something about raising the EU’s 2030 emissions reduction target to 55%. Perhaps she could even say that they could raise to 65% if there’s a new American president next year. If governments get it right at the moment, to combine the recovery package with the EU green deal, it might even speed up the direction towards climate neutrality.”
He added that the next 6-18 months will be as important as the years after World War II for redirecting the course of the world. “We must get it right this time and we only have this one chance, because we will have much more stressed public budgets two years from now.”
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