News from the NOS••Modified
European Union correspondent
European Union correspondent
Who should pay for the damage caused by natural disasters caused by climate change? It is one of the main topics of discussion at the climate summit in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt. All the players in the world will gather there in two weeks.
European Commissioner Frans Timmermans leads the talks on behalf of the European Union. The EU negotiates en bloc. Today he received a mandate from European climate ministers, which Timmermans describes as “building bridges and bringing the entire international community together”.
It will be a good job. Last year’s summit was mainly about ‘keeping alive’ the possibility of not allowing the earth to heat up more than a degree and a half. More and more climate scientists now openly doubt its feasibility, but the European Commissioner remains cautiously positive. “You can still do it,” he says. “We must keep the countries on the agreements made in Glasgow”.
The EU is at the forefront of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Union has committed to reducing emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990. Timmermans hopes this will follow a good example. “Much will depend on the position of China and India. We must also work with them to reduce emissions.”
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Last year all eyes in the world were on Glasgow, now there is less attention for the climate summit. The EU is engaged in the war in Ukraine, the consequences of which also have important consequences for the climate. Since Russia has almost turned off the gas tap, many countries are turning to coal, which emits much more CO2 when it is burned and which is much more polluting.
Timmermans is concerned, but stresses that Europe’s climate goals are not in danger: there is also more attention than ever to investing in renewable energy. “If you accelerate to wind, solar and hydro, you will keep the use of extra coal short enough and your emissions reduction goals will not be jeopardized.”
The Russians also arrive in Sharm El Sheik. The European Union will not speak with the Russian delegation due to the war in Ukraine. This is politics. But Timmermans will listen carefully to the Russians, “because it is a meeting of the United Nations,” he says. According to him, it is perhaps the only point where they could still be somehow constructive, because they themselves suffer a lot from climate change too.
One topic that will get a lot of attention this year is the so-called ‘Loss and damage’. Natural disasters caused by climate change are increasing. What must be done to limit the damage and who is responsible for it? Small island states at risk of disappearing and other vulnerable countries want a special fund to compensate them.
According to Timmermans, the point is on the agenda with the support of the EU, but other rich countries, including the United States, do not want to prejudge the outcome of that discussion. So they can be specifically addressed by poorer countries on their responsibility and may have to pay financially for it, which they want to avoid.
“So put it on the agenda and keep the result reasonably open,” is the solution according to Timmermans in this discussion. He thinks of concrete measures, such as a world warning system, which informs you much earlier and more accurately when threatening dangerous weather conditions. According to the European Commissioner, President Egypt is counting on EU support as a bridge builder in this discussion.
“If you see how extremely cautious the Americans were in this discussion last year, we have made real progress, but of course I would like to go faster. But the amount of natural disasters last year woke everyone up.”
Is this kind of climate conference still the way to bring about change? “We did it in Glasgow, so I don’t know why we couldn’t do it again this year, even in these very difficult circumstances. We mustn’t give up.”