Climate activists walk out of COP meeting over leaked EU energy paper

In talks that could last up to four years, climate campaigners call for total decarbonisation by 2030 The start of the latest round of global climate talks at the Austrian mountain resort of Copenhagan…

Climate activists walk out of COP meeting over leaked EU energy paper

In talks that could last up to four years, climate campaigners call for total decarbonisation by 2030

The start of the latest round of global climate talks at the Austrian mountain resort of Copenhagan in south-west Germany has been overshadowed by a mass walkout by environmental activists over climate scepticism by European governments.

At the talks, which can run for as long as four years, policymakers from more than 100 countries gather to discuss how to tackle climate change, but tempers have been frayed by a leaked version of an EU paper on overshoot targets, released at the same time as the walkout.

Climate campaigners have urged a total decarbonisation of the global economy by 2030, but the paper seen by activists outlines various ways of achieving that in 2050, with different degrees of decarbonisation of different fossil fuel sources.

In early February, the leaked EU paper was released ahead of the meeting in Finland, where diplomats from the 27 EU nations are being urged to sign up to a pledge of climate action from the majority of countries in the bloc.

However, a number of countries refused to accept the wording, fearing that criticism of their own green policies could undermine support for those changes.

“Climate ministers are coming together for one last push,” said Erik Solheim, the head of the UN’s environment programme. “The world is moving. The US backed out of the Paris climate agreement, but now it is just the beginning of a lot of deep discussion in Europe, and elsewhere.”

Activists have also been accusing the EU of trying to undermine the UN secretary general, António Guterres, whose call for new goals at the head of this week’s talks set expectations that were not matched by Europe.

“We are very concerned that the EU politicians are using our trust in them to undermine the hard work in Paris,” said Ghent Weiss, a climate campaigner with NGO Avaaz. “They should stick to their commitment to the Paris agreement and double their efforts to meet the goals, and not feed any further doubt that climate action is impossible.”

The 28-strong European commission told journalists on the eve of the meeting that talks about climate action were still continuing, and insisted that the draft document would now be revised.

“I have not seen that [translated] document and I cannot comment,” said Danuta Hübner, the MEP in charge of environment and climate change issues at the European parliament. “We should count on MEPs like MEPs, who have to vote on the EU legislation in the European parliament, having a realistic and balanced approach.”

Elements of the EU’s blueprint for a 2050 low-carbon economy could be included in the proposed interim targets on Monday.

“We will be looking at targets on emissions reduction for 2030 as well as 2025,” said a spokeswoman for the European commission. “These objectives could be included in the interim targets for 2030.”

“To accelerate low-carbon transition, the EU seeks to support a global agenda for coal phase-out and establish a global methane phase-out agreement,” added Hübner.

Erik Solheim, executive director of the UN’s environment programme, told delegates to the UN meeting in Denmark that more action was needed to fight climate change.

“It is urgent that all nations commit to the path to climate action, not just an interim, informal, self-promoting one,” said Solheim. “In the current context, we urgently need to enact a clear, ambitious, and legally binding low-carbon Paris climate agreement that provides the global roadmap for progress and protection for generations to come.”

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