Steps to Improve on EU’s Foreign Climate Policies

The European Union (EU) has a significant role in leading the worldwide shift towards addressing climate change. To achieve this goal, the EU needs a solid mandate for its climate foreign policy that takes into account the current multi-crisis situation. The EU can establish this mandate at the upcoming Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) meeting in February, which has the following objectives:

  1. Establish global agreement on ending the use of fossil fuels, with the EU taking a leading role in implementing it domestically.
  2. Mobilize EU and international finances to support countries affected by the global energy, food, and economic crisis.
  3. Use EU industrial and trade policies, and diplomatic efforts, to encourage other major carbon emitters to speed up their own decarbonization efforts.

The EU has already taken a step in the right direction by calling for a worldwide coal phase-out at the 2021 FAC meeting, which paved the way for a global agreement on reducing the use of coal at the COP26 conference. The upcoming February FAC meeting must build on this success and maintain the EU’s leadership position in the transition to a green economy. This year’s climate diplomacy FAC will take place in a more complex environment due to the Russian war in Ukraine and the pressure on global energy and food markets.

The EU’s mandate at the FAC meeting should aim to:

  • Encourage a full global commitment to phase out fossil fuels and accelerate the phase-out of coal.
  • Push for reforms that increase access to finance for developing countries to transition to a green economy.
  • Provide incentives for other major carbon emitters to hasten their own transitions through the use of industrial and trade policies.

By demonstrating its own commitment to the green transition, the EU can inspire a global consensus to end the use of fossil fuels. However, the EU’s recent efforts to replace Russian fossil fuel imports with alternative sources have tightened global gas markets and risk being misinterpreted as a return to coal. A clear mandate for the green transition would show the EU’s commitment to its own climate targets, demonstrate how it is phasing out fossil fuels, and aim to drive a global phase-out of fossil fuels.

The EU can also signal its support for climate-vulnerable countries by mobilizing transition and impact response finance for developing countries. This can be achieved by supporting innovative mechanisms and reforms to multilateral financial institutions that help these countries deal with the impacts of climate change and high debt levels. The EU can also promote Just Energy Transition Partnerships, mobilize finance for adaptation and loss and damage, and work towards broader financial system reforms.

By taking a new approach to diplomatic engagement with other major carbon emitters, the EU can encourage these countries to make their own commitments. The EU can lead by example by setting its own ambitious targets for 2035/2040 NDCs and use its Green Deal diplomacy to incentivize other major emitters to take action. The EU can maximize its diplomatic impact by working together with developing countries to overcome political and economic hurdles.

In 2023, the EU should set the following key targets for its climate and energy diplomacy:

  • A global fossil fuel phase-out mandate and progress towards phasing out coal globally.
  • Financing for the global transition to a green economy and responding to the impacts of climate change.

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