The EU has always considered itself a leader in global climate governance, although its influence in climate diplomacy has varied over time. The EU reaffirmed its intent to continue to exert climate leadership – both at home and internationally – in its long-term strategy ‘A Clean Planet for All’, a European strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate-neutral economy, released in the run-up to the Katowice climate- change conference (UNFCCC COP24) in 2018:

“The EU must therefore promote worldwide uptake of policies and actions to reverse the currently unsustainable emissions trajectory, and to manage an orderly transition to a worldwide low carbon future. The EU should continue leading by example as well as foster multilateral rule-based cooperation.”

This brief recommends a few avenues to harness EU external cooperation to boost ambitious climate action globally.

Key messages

  • In view of expected climate-change impacts, the EU should aim for 1.5°C-compatibility throughout its domestic and external action. This requires the EU to define clear guidelines for 1.5°C-compatible action in each country context, together with country partners, and to develop a list of development-cooperation activities that would need to stop altogether.
  • The EU will need to allocate adequate financing for climate action, well above the currently proposed 25% share of expenditure in the upcoming Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), and to ensure 1.5°C-compatibility of all financing. Financial support should consider countries’ development priorities, needs and resources and boost their confidence for higher climate ambition. Private sector contributions could be further stimulated through existing and new programmes.
  • So far, climate financing from the EU and elsewhere has been disproportionately channelled towards middle-income countries and mitigation. While middle-income countries offer higher potential for emissions reductions, more direct support should be geared towards adaptation and resilience in highly vulnerable least-developed and lower-middle-income countries.
  • The EU should strengthen its climate diplomacy through new and improved bilateral, triangular and multilateral partnerships for development cooperation. These should foster knowledge exchange and dialogue to advance policy coherence and innovation.
  • Policy coherence should be improved internally, through better coordination between the EU and EU-member states (vertically), EU-level institutions (horizontally, different areas of action), and within specific areas of EU external action (sectorally).
  • EU climate commitments need to be underpinned by commensurate domestic policies and adequately ambitious submissions of targets and long-term strategies to the UNFCCC, in line with carbon-neutrality by 2050 and sending clear signals for international climate finance and support.

Authors include:  Gabriela Iacobuta, Mariella Di Ciommo, Niels Keijzer, Hanne Knaepen, Lola Vallejo, Steffen Bauer. 

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