Perspectives from capitals on COP26 – European Council on Foreign Relations
Rome: multilateralism and a missed opportunity
Multilateral conferences on crisis management do not always run smoothly – and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) was no exception. This was particularly evident in the reluctance of key players China, Russia and India to engage in a substantive multilateral climate agenda.
However, for the Italian government, multilateralism remains the only effective framework to manage current and future crises. He maintained this position during his year at the forefront of crisis management as co-chair of COP26 and current chair of the G20.
As Italian Minister for Ecological Transition Roberto Cingolani observes, COP26 was an extraordinary exercise in democracy as it brought together 194 countries – each with distinct national interests – to shape climate policy. Recognizing their interdependence, these countries relaunched a process that had been delayed by the pandemic.
The greatest success of COP26 may come from the renewed US commitment to green and climate agendas, including on issues such as transparency and accountability in climate finance. Italy, for its part, took advantage of the G20 presidency to try to maintain countries’ commitments to a key objective of the 2016 Paris Agreement: to limit average global warming to 1, 5 ° C above pre-industrial levels. This involved 14 days of negotiations at COP26, an intense diplomatic effort.
Nonetheless, while many of the world’s biggest polluters have failed to show solidarity with states most vulnerable to climate change, COP26 has proven to be a missed opportunity. Leaders in Rome will need to continue their work to ensure that structured multilateralism triumphs where ad hoc regionalism has failed.
Berlin: cautious optimism in Berlin
Representing Germany’s caretaker government at COP26, Environment Minister Svenja Schulze hailed the Glasgow Climate Pact’s commitment to “gradually reduce” the use of coal globally as a “life-changing” achievement. She could also cite successes in other areas: Germany will work with France, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union to provide $ 8.5 billion to support the efforts of the South Africa to phase out coal. The deal may well become a model of initiatives designed to advance both a just transition to global net zero and international climate action more broadly.
Yet Germany’s hedonistic conservatism also manifested itself in Glasgow: the country refused to sign a ban on fossil fuel vehicles from 2040. Indeed, members of the interim government were unable to meet. agree on whether or not to include synthetic fuels in the sustainable transport plans.
The dispute also affected coalition negotiations between the Social Democratic Party (which is part of the current interim government), the Greens and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP). In the final days of negotiations leading up to the presentation of the coalition agreement on November 24, the parties fought over a credible commitment to the 1.5 ° C target and efforts to mainstream climate policy across all ministries. and the chancellery. The Greens threatened to stop the talks at the last minute.
Nonetheless, the deal could help Germany regain its position as climate champion. Negotiators found creative ways to reconcile the FDP’s demand to maintain the constitutional debt brake with the need to raise funds for Germany’s green transformation. The co-leaders of the Greens, Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck, are expected to take over respectively the foreign ministry and a new super-ministry for the economy and the climate. There is now a real chance that Germany will formulate and push forward a coherent foreign climate policy – one that works across the EU and has global effects.
Paris: A climate presidency
COP26 had mixed results: the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 ° C target may still be achievable, but there is no consensus on how to compensate low-income countries for losses and other damages resulting from the green transition. As a result, the gap between the rich nations and the countries of the South has widened.
There could now be a global agreement to phase out coal – which French President Emmanuel Macron calls “encouraging step”- but not to eliminate it gradually. As this failure hampers efforts to reduce fossil fuel use, France has announced it will join an alliance formed by the UK, US, Canada and several other states to halt investment foreigners in these fuels from the end of 2022. France had been criticized by other EU member states for its slowness in joining the alliance. And it has yet to explain in detail what this commitment will mean for some of the projects it is currently supporting. However, coming just before France takes over the Presidency of the Council of the EU, it is a welcome initiative which “creates momentum”, as French Minister for the Ecological Transition Barbara Pompili puts it.
The climate will be a priority for France during this presidency, as French leaders try to find a coherent and united European voice on the issue before the COP27, scheduled in Egypt in November 2022. France will face related challenges. to “green taxonomy”. ‘- in particular as regards the inclusion or not of nuclear in the energy mix, as the French and Polish leaders have long advocated – and the design of the mechanism for adjusting the EU’s carbon borders, which could have significant internal and external effects.
France’s ability to build coalitions with other EU member states – in particular Germany after the coming to power of its next government – will once again be essential to demonstrate that it has done so. substantial progress on climate issues. As Macron is well aware, these questions will be at the center of public debate as the French presidential election in April 2022 approaches.
The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications represent the opinions of its individual authors only.