COP26 has to be the turning point — from climate negotiations to climate solutions

October 15, 2021 - 08:19

Ahead of the upcoming 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference slated for October 31 – November 12, 2021, the Ambassadors of the European Union Member States in Việt Nam penned a joint Op-Ed calling on partners, including Việt Nam, to strengthen climate plans, and reiterated their commitment to help achieve set targets.

A dried up canal in Gò Cấp Township, the Mekong Delta Province of Tiền Giang, after a historic episode of drought and salt intrusion hitting the southern region in March. VNA/VNS Photo Vũ Sinh

Ahead of the upcoming 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference slated for October 31 – November 12, 2021, the Ambassadors of the European Union Member States in Việt Nam penned a joint Op-Ed calling on partners, including Việt Nam, to strengthen climate plans, and reiterated their commitment to help achieve set targets.

'The evidence is clear. In August, the world’s scientists concluded once again that immediate action is needed. Climate change is uncomfortably close to all our daily realities no matter where in the world we live. Already it is triggering the kind of climate disasters we saw recently in every part of the planet, putting the survival of many species at risk and soon rendering certain parts of the Earth uninhabitable to humans.

As climate scientist Prof. Kimberly Nicholas framed it, “It's warming. It's us. We're sure. It's bad. But we can fix it”.

In Paris, six years ago, the international community finally agreed to embark upon an ambitious journey: to limit global warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius. While such levels of warming might seem manageable, the difference could be existential. For the human body the difference between 40 and 42 degrees Celsius is the difference between life and death. Containing the temperature increase means limiting climate disruption and reducing the chance of natural disasters. 

Yet the news is not all grim. Science also tells us that a zero-carbon society is possible, a society of new green jobs and growth that can limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The European Union has already shown that it is feasible to decouple growth from CO2 emissions (since 1990, our GDP has grown by over 60 per cent while net greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by a quarter). In July, the European Commission released the legislative package to implement the European Green Deal and deliver a 55 per cent net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 on the path to EU’s climate neutrality by 2050. This transition of how we generate and use energy, move around, build, cool & heat houses and use the land is designed in the fairest way possible, ensuring no one is left behind. Otherwise, it won’t work.

But obviously, the EU cannot manage alone as we only emit 8 per cent of global CO2 emissions. We have to inspire others, even the most reluctant partners, to join the path to climate neutrality. When the EU committed to climate neutrality by 2050 two years ago, few believed that Japan, USA, South Korea and even China would follow. When we launched the EU Green Deal, few imagined the EU would borrow for a green recovery to finance the most ambitious climate neutrality plan in the world. We set up the first Green Alliance for climate neutrality, starting with Japan on 27 May, and we pushed for the G7 to commit to climate neutrality in June. Now we are pushing the G20 to follow suit. And we will never stop pushing for progress. 

We invite all partners to strengthen their climate mitigation and adaptation plans. We are ready to offer technical and financial support and are walking the talk with our own Climate law, 2030 package and Adaptation Strategy. We are among the world’s biggest providers of climate finance, releasing EUR22 billion (US$26 billion) in 2019 representing more than a third of the total effort by developed countries.

And we are committed to scaling up this amount further in the years to come, which can be seen by European Commission President Von der Leyen’s recent announcement of an overall $4 billion top-up under the EU’s core budget over the 2021-27 period. 

But we need others to do more also to meet the commitment by developed countries to provide $100 billion per year for climate action in developing countries. Mobilising more private finance will also be important in this regard. 

The EU has fought hard to keep the Paris Agreement alive. After the negotiating, the time for climate action is here. Each State must increase its ambition to cut global emissions, but the UNFCCC just released a disheartening report. Under current commitments, global temperature would rise by an unacceptable 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100 – a gloomy outlook to say the least.

A lack of ambition means a climate tax will be levied by climate change itself, a tax that is bad for everyone, paid for with destruction, and without any upside for society. This is why we have proposed a flexible carbon border adjustment mechanism to use only if partners are not ambitious enough on climate action. Putting a price on carbon is essential, one way or another. It is a proven way to the price signal that triggers change. We want to lead by example and engage with partners, but we are prepared to take more action, if necessary. 

If we close the gaps in financing and ambition, if all countries commit to doing more, then we can still keep the climate crisis under control. Based on science, realists today know the cost of inaction is immeasurable. It’s a fantasy to believe we could afford not to act. 

We now need a systemic and exponential change away from fossil fuels. It is good for our health, our households, our crops, our water, our jobs, and our economies. This will require the support of world leaders and pressure from citizens. Every action counts: how we work, what we eat, how we travel.  Just how damaging climate change will be is in our hands. 

The EU strives to take a leading role in climate action. We want to do more and we encourage Việt Nam to raise its climate ambition ahead of the COP26 meeting in Glasgow in November. We are confident that Việt Nam will increase its efforts and will reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases towards 2030, and more, will put in place a socioeconomic strategy to reach climate neutrality in 2050. Renewable energy and improving energy efficiency are central to Việt Nam’s decarbonisation. The EU and its Member-states are partners of Việt Nam in this endeavour. We have been providing substantial financial and technical support and we will continue doing so in very important sectors, such as energy production, agriculture, transport, waste management to name a few.

Climate action can and must take place everywhere, at every level. There is no time left for inaction, the time for practical solutions is now, from the most basic to the most innovative. — VNS

*The Ambassadors of the European Union Member States in Việt Nam include H.E Giorgio Aliberti – Ambassador of the European Union, H.E Paul Jansen – Ambassador of Belgium, H.E Vitezslav Grepl – Ambassador of the Czech Republic, H.E Kim Hojlund Christensen – Ambassador of Denmark, H.E Guido Hildner – Ambassador of Germany, H.E Andres Unga - Ambassador of Estonia, H.E John McCullagh – Ambassador of Ireland, H.E Georgios Stilianopoulos – Ambassador of Greece, H.E Maria Pilar Mendez Jimenez – Ambassador of Spain, H.E Nicolas Warnery – Ambassador of France, H.E Antonio Alessandro – Ambassador of Italy, H.E Agis Loizou - Ambassador of Cyprus, H.E Maija Manika - Ambassador of Latvia, H.E Diana Mickeviciene -  Ambassador of Lithuania, H.E Jean-Paul Senninger – Ambassador of Luxembourg, H.E Csaba Őri - Ambassador of Hungary, H.E Elsbeth Akkerman – Ambassador of the Netherlands, H.E Hans-Peter Glanzer – Ambassador of Austria, H.E Wojciech Gerwel - Ambassador of Poland, H.E João Bernardo de Oliveira Martins Weinstein - Ambassador of Portugal, H.E Cristina Romila - Ambassador of Romania, H.E Alenka Suhadolnik - Ambassador of Slovenia, H.E Pavol Svetik - Ambassador of Slovakia, H.E Mr Keijo Norvanto -  Ambassador of Finland, and H.E Ann Mawe – Ambassador of Sweden.