The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) wants COP21 to be a major milestone to put the international community on the right track to limit global warming to a maximum of 2° C compared to preindustrial levels. It adopted its position on COP21 already in July 2015 with some key messages for decision makers:
· The Paris Agreement should be a legally-binding and ambitious framework applying to all states on the basis of common but differentiated responsibilities
· All economies must move to low-carbon patterns
· Decision-makers must ensure that the transition to low-carbon economies is fair and does not go on the expense of social justice and decent jobs
· The international community must support developing countries, notably the most vulnerable
· Citizens and civil society must be fully involved in the development, review and implementation of the Paris Agreement.
On 1 December, President Georges Dassis participated in a side event of COP21 bringing together civil society from Europe and Africa which highlighted the importance of continuing to build solidarity between civil societies from the North and the South. This conference was co-organised by the EESC, the French Economic, Social and Environmental Council, the Union of African Economic and Social Councils (UCESA) and the Union of Economic and Social Councils of Francophone Countries (UCESIF). It is part of the common work of the economic and social chambers from both Africa and Europe on climate change, which includes in particular a common declaration adopted in the lead up to COP21 on October 23rd, 2015.
"I want to repeat here our message: this agreement needs not only to be legally binding. It has also to take the shape of clear and comparable commitments, adapted to the necessities and possibilities of the respective regions", said EESC President Georges Dassis.
It is now widely acknowledged that climate change affects developing countries, in particular Africa, even harder than other parts of the world. Pre-existing phenomena such as water scarcity and droughts are only getting worse with climate change, affecting in particular agriculture. That is why the conference addressed specifically the necessary revolution in agricultural models and ways for farmers in developing countries to adapt to the consequences of climate change. Participants also focused on the need for a fair transition to low-carbon economies and emphasised that the most vulnerable should not be the ones footing the bill of greener development.
The economic and social councils of Africa and Europe have worked throughout 2015 to compare and reconcile their points of view on ways to combat climate change and its effects and the challenges involved. On both sides of the banks of the Mediterranean civil society is ready to take the battle against climate change. While policy-makers are responsible for putting an appropriate framework in place, it is civil society as a whole which will be tasked with implementing and monitoring measures. Thus it is essential to involve civil society in the process of drawing up and implementing targeted policies.
"Solidarity towards developing countries is crucial for COP21 to be successful, said President Dassis. Industrialised countries must keep their promise to contribute 100bn$ per year by 2020 for green development of the South. Considering the needs of developing countries, 100bn$ is not such a large amount of money in a world with a 75tn$ global output. A tax on financial transactions yielding tens of billion each year in Europe could already provide a large part of the solution."
COP21's aim is to deliver an international agreement compatible with the overall objective of keeping global warming below 2°C compared to preindustrial levels. However, the EESC President highlighted that the 2°C threshold is an absolute maximum, adding that a more ambitious goal around 1,5°C should be seriously envisaged to prevent the most vulnerable countries.
The EESC Delegation will together with Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), the French Economic and Environmental Council and the Committee of the Regions (CoR) organise an event on "Community energy: accelerating sustainable energy roll-out in Europe" on 4 December in Paris, and on 5 December, the EESC will hold a conference on "Putting a socially responsible price on carbon – a challenge for society" also in Paris.