THE BLOG

The EU: Climate Emitter or Committer?

03/12/2014 05:08 pm ET | Updated May 12, 2014

Unfortunately, it is a truth that the climate process has been floundering for a lot of its 22-year history, and almost ground to a complete halt following the Copenhagen negotiations in 2009. However, there is light on the horizon with the Paris negotiations acting as a focal point in 2015. By spring next year, countries need to have submitted their climate targets and contributions on the table.

The first group of countries headed towards serious and considered targets is the EU. The Member States are coming together on March 20-21, 2014 to discuss the Climate Package previously announced in January. Rather than being yet another Brussels-based talk-fest, it will serve as a global litmus test to see how serious governments are in finding real environmental and economic salutations to the climate challenge.

Currently, the proposed climate package announced in January includes a target to cut emissions to 40 percent by 2030 based on 1990 levels and a target for 27 percent renewables in the energy mix by 2030.

The 2030 climate and energy package will also form the basis of the EU's offer in the international climate negotiations leading to the COP in Paris in 2015. This will be the first offer on the table and needs to inspire the rest of the world towards confident and ambitious climate action.

Even though the EU may not be the biggest carbon emitter, it doesn't mean it shouldn't be its greatest global committer. It arguably will set the tone for things to come internationally in the following 18 months.

Looking back at the history of climate negotiations, it has been framed as a long suffering process, characterized by a lack of vision and ambition, politicization of possibilities, endless arguments around what kind of commitments should be made, by who and by when. All of this has lead to there currently being more carbon into the planet's atmosphere than ever before.

However it doesn't have to be about suffering and running the global economy into the ground. We need to have a new frame, one of a different vision of the future, one that has a much more holistic vision of prosperity, which is sustainable and equitable.

The EU has a great opportunity to lead not just in terms of numbers and levels of ambition, but by coming up with a vision that underpins the direction it takes. Previously the 20-20-20 targets set out in 2007 (20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels; raising the share of EU renewable energy consumption to 20 percent; and a 20 percent improvement in the EU's energy efficiency), were put in the context of a new vision of Europe -- one where a greener economic and social transformation was being touted. Unfortunately, over the past years, this has all, but evaporated for various social and economic reasons.

In my mind, the EU has to show more than just commitment to these numbers, but also a passion to create a new more sustainable future. If we continue to perceive the process as one full of pain, suffering and economic loss, as opposed to an opportunity to build a sustainable future then it is a greatest missed opportunity in the history of mankind. As a veteran of this process, I for one am choosing to look towards the horizon.