EU climate ministers back ‘polluter pays’ principle in agreed declaration for Cop28 negotiations

Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan secures amendment as way to raise climate finance for vulnerable countries and assist adoption of renewables

The “polluter pays” principle is set to be an agreed negotiating position for the EU at the UN global climate conference in Dubai later this year, which could be a global mechanism to raise large amounts of climate finance.

This follows an intervention by Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan, who secured an amendment to the EU’s “proposed declaration for Cop28″, as the UN conference is known.

The Minister put the amendment forward during discussions in Luxembourg on the EU Climate Change Advisory Council’s conclusions on climate finance in advance of Cop28. The discussions opened on Monday and agreement was reached,in the early hours of Tuesday.

Through the Environment Council, this will feed into the EU negotiators’ mandate at the forthcoming negotiations from November 30th to December 12th in UAE – on the basis of agreement from all EU members.


Mr Ryan was appointed last year as lead EU negotiator on “loss and damage” at Cop27, which relates to compensating climate vulnerable countries, and he is currently the co-chair of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) ministerial grouping for 2024.

Over the past year, and in co-operation with the IEA, he has been advocating for the application of the polluter pays principle to help finance mitigation and adaptation measures in response to the devastating impact climate change is having on many of the world’s poorest countries, who are least responsible for man-made carbon emissions.

In addition to exchequer funding from contributing countries, the Minister has supported the call for a “mosaic of solutions” to ensure there is adequate and reliable funding available to address the climate crisis and to fund “the enormous inequity that exists when it comes to the transition to renewable energy”. At present, more than 600 million people have no access to electricity and Africa, which has 40 per cent of the world’s solar radiation, has less solar PV deployed than the Netherlands.

Ireland, through its record of development in the least developed countries, has been working to understand how access to clean energy can support their development while Mr Ryan has been working with the IEA to identify solutions that could provide appropriate financing for deployment of clean energy.

Mr Ryan said: “This amendment is a significant step forward and means the EU could go to Cop28 with a mandate to, firstly, negotiate to broaden the sources of funding for climate based on the polluter pays principle, and to explore how the clean energy revolution can be financed and expanded across the least developed countries, so they too can benefit from their own clean, reliable and indigenous energy sources in exactly the way the developed world is now moving at speed and scale.”

EU climate ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to delivery of the collective $100 billion (€95 billion) goal for climate finance by 2025, adding that they expected this goal could be reached this year.

The main agenda items of Cop28 will be a “global stocktake” on progress towards achieving Paris Agreement targets; a programme to reduce emission through mitigation measures, a global goal on adaptation (helping countries to adapt to inevitable consequences of global warming) and a deal on climate finance including arrangements for loss and damage. The most contentious issue, however, will be efforts to agree a pathway on phasing out fossil fuels.

The EU has agreed to a global phase-out of unabated fossil fuels, with a peak in consumption this decade. More positively, the Environment Council highlighted the importance for the energy sector being predominantly free of fossils well in advance of 2050.

EU member states remained divided on this issue until the Council meeting, with a number having backed a more ambitious call for a full fossil fuel phase-out.

“Unfortunately, ministers eventually today agreed on a weaker commitment to phasing out unabated fossil fuels. Calling for the phase-out of ‘unabated’ fossil fuels rather than a full phase-out of all fossil fuels leaves open loopholes to continue using fossil fuels if certain measures are taken to reduce the intensity of their greenhouse gas emissions,” said Climate Action Network Europe.

“However, currently there is no clear definition of abatement, and the technologies that are being promoted for abatement such as carbon capture and storage are yet unproven at the scale that would be needed to have a significant impact.”

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times