Climate Diplomacy and Energy Cooperation Effectiveness: Prospects for EU Green Deal Contributions


Contributing to the blog this week is Sébastien Willemart, Attaché (JPD) to the EU Delegation to Angola & Youth4Nature Regional Coordinator, EUSEW 2020 Digital Ambassador. 

The success of the climate regime depends upon keeping main emitters behind the Paris Agreement. EU climate diplomacy effectiveness is conditioned by internal strategies, their translation at the bilateral level and the outcome of multilateral negotiations. The gradual adoption of EU climate-energy nexus policies contributed to relatively satisfactory achievements in successive COPs. Throughout COP15, COP21 and COP24, the increasing articulation of these policies allowed the EU to present energy as an object of mutual understanding with strategic actors and to capitalize on partnerships to leverage compromises. The evolution of the EU climate-energy nexus is marked by EU's capacity to agree internally, leading to joint undertakings, high-level consultations, socialization, common narratives and commitments.

Before COP15, the constitutive elements of a coherent climate diplomacy emerged with the Green Diplomatic Network and the Emission Trading Scheme. EU-China Energy Dialogue was raised to the Ministerial level and the clean coal NZEC project demonstrated common willingness to progress. The Clean Development Mechanism also led to significant financial flows towards China and India. However, both emerging economies formed the BASIC coalition at COP15, supporting a strong differentiation between developing and developed countries and contradicting EU plans.

Before COP21, the positions of Energy and Climate EU Commissioners were merged, and the Lisbon Treaty allowed EEAS’s steering of diplomatic efforts. Both EU-China and EU-India Climate Change Partnerships crystalized common interest on clean technologies and conducive policy frameworks. Pre-COP21 preparatory work strengthened China’s commitment to a global deal and its statement with the US allowed this achievement. Renewables became a pillar of China’s industrial policy and India presented itself as a promoter of their deployment worldwide.

At COP24, EU climate-energy diplomacy was boosted by Juncker’s policy prioritization, the Energy Union and the 2050 Strategy. While EU-China Energy Dialogue was operationalized on carbon trading, EU-India cooperation focused on solar energy. EU-China UNFCCC coordination increased after US withdrawal announcement, as shown by their co-sharing of MoCA preparatory sessions and their effort in co-drafting a solution to the COP24 MRV deadlock. Meanwhile, India insisted on energy technology transfer, resulting in a MoU with the EU on the International Solar Alliance.

EU improved coordination with China and in UNFCCC negotiations thanks to an increasingly pragmatic positioning. Before COP15, EU instruments were not very attractive, resulting in flawed expectations from all sides. At COP21, EU tangible climate-energy nexus approach had been embraced, adopted and promoted, allowing partners to achieve domestic gains and overseas influence. At COP24, EU’s pledge, running programmes and straightforward diplomacy allowed for mutual recognition and deal-delivery despite US position.

At COP25, the EU Climate Commissioner was also the Executive President for the Green Deal, with other Commissioners (i.e. Transport, Energy, Environment and Fisheries, Agriculture, Cohesion and Reforms) under its command to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Combined with EIB new lending policy, inspired by Green Taxonomy debates and Commission’s claims to enter in ‘geopolitical mode’, this is likely to impact financial support perspectives both within and outside the EU, with strong diplomatic implications.

Overall, domestic business-cases, project-specific cooperation and substantial partnerships deliver the most value. It is crucial to validate holistic sustainable strategies, diffuse policy experiences and form inclusive coalitions to progress in the UNFCCC process. The EU Green Deal can achieve it by showcasing the co-benefits of integrated cross-sectorial climate action, opening cooperation platforms on new issues and upgrading global commitments accordingly. As promoted by 19 Member States so far, it should actually guide the post-coronavirus crisis general economic recovery, both in Europe and abroad.

The COVID-19 worldwide transport - and industrial - shutdown led to a -8% global emission forecast for 2020 by the IEA, showing the magnitude of transformation that the world needs to achieve Paris Agreement goals. Indeed, -7.8% and -4% yearly are deemed necessary to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C and 2°C, respectively. The crisis also reminded oil producers about price volatility and, at least temporarily, questioned our mass flying paradigm, adding a shock to tourism-dependent economies (including SIDS).

The coronavirus outbreak delayed COP26, at which countries are expected to upgrade their National Determined Contributions (NDCs) for the first time since the Paris Agreement, launching a regular progress review process. Moreover, due to a generally reduced fiscal space, ambition and climate finance could be impacted and the Green Climate Fund may not reach $100 billion in 2020 as previously agreed.

Seeking to feed the climate momentum, the EU Commission declared that it would not slow down its work domestically or internationally to prepare for an ambitious COP26. Depending of the outcome of November’s US elections, the next UNFCCC discussions might see another significant emitter equipped with a transformational Green Deal. The EU Green Deal gives a framework that allows for the mainstreaming of climate and environmental considerations in all EU policies. Its success could offer a blueprint for growth decoupling, innovation, quality of life and competitiveness. Its externalization could constitute an invitation for others to participate in the multilateral effort to design more resilient economies and tackle global climate change together.



Backed by UN and EU experiences, Sébastien strengthened WWF advocacy strategies, contributed to the UN World Water Development Report and drafted recommendations both to the EU Parliament and the Commission. He attended COP21, 23, 24 and 25. 


Disclaimer: This article is a contribution from a Digital Ambassador. All rights reserved.
Neither the European Commission nor any person acting on behalf of the Commission is responsible for the use that might be made of the information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) only and should not be considered as representative of the European Commission’s official position.


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