France and Germany call for tougher measures on carbon emissions

Europe to take lead global role in absence of US, Merkel and Macron tell COP23

German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron at the  UN Climate Change Conference COP23 in Bonn, Germany: They said  the Paris agreement on climate change would be fully implemented. Photograph: Philipp Guelland/Getty Images

German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron at the UN Climate Change Conference COP23 in Bonn, Germany: They said the Paris agreement on climate change would be fully implemented. Photograph: Philipp Guelland/Getty Images

 

The leaders of France and Germany have fronted a diplomatic effort to reinvigorate the UN climate change talks by committing to more demanding measures to reduce carbon emissions in light of the extent of global warming.

In addresses to the high-level plenary session of the UN Climate Change Conference 2017 (known as COP23) in Bonn, French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel said the Paris agreement on climate change would be fully implemented.

They said Europe would take the lead global role in the absence of the US, which is withdrawing from the accord.

Mr Macron said the UN’s scientific expert panel would not be a euro short of what was required to do its work. The Trump administration has said it will cut funding for the group, known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which provides guidance on global warming to governments.

He said climate change brought “unfair injustice for vulnerable underprivileged people” and paid tribute to countries including Ireland who have joined the climate action body that supports developing countries known as the NDC Partnership.

Dr Merkel said “climate change will determine the destiny of all of us”. As a consequence Germany was going to double public financing of climate actions by 2020. She expected private business and banks to follow suit.

The issue was topping the agenda at discussions on forming the new German government, she said. They were also considering how to reduce coal use in power generation.

“We stand by Paris. We now have to stand together in implementing it, and we need appropriate rules,” she added.

Their intervention is likely to bring an end to nine days of haggling over the Paris “rule book” on implementation of the agreement.

Earlier, without naming the US, German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier told national leaders and ministers that “some who today have left the ship’s bridge for the dinghy may return to our big ship in a couple of years.”

Minister for Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten, who is to address the COP23 plenary session on Thursday, confirmed progress was being made, especially in supporting developing countries.

He paid tribute to the official Irish delegation for helping to secure agreements on agriculture and on recognition of gender impacts. As women bear the heaviest brunt of global warming, a new action plan aims to reverse this inequality.

Agriculture breakthrough

The breakthrough on agriculture overcame an impasse going back six years on the interpretation of data on the climate impacts of farming and land use. Ireland is to facilitate workshops over the coming months on further implementation of Paris commitments in relation to vegetation, livestock and forestry.

Mr Naughten said it was a crucial milestone on the journey to full implementation of the Paris agreement.

A lack of implementation would mean a 3 degree rise in global temperatures this century which, he said, could not be allowed happen as it would impair economic development.

While Ireland was “in for criticism” as it was not going to meet its 2020 emissions reduction targets, he said the country was a global leader in generating electricity from renewable sources, energy efficiency, and, through its “smart farming” initiative, was achieving reductions of up to 10 per cent in emissions.

Mr Naughten confirmed the Department of Finance was reviewing the “public spend code” with a view to taking into account Ireland’s long-term climate goals.

In his address, UN secretary general António Guterres stepped up pressure on wealthier, high-emissions countries. “Floods, fires, extreme storms and drought are growing in intensity and frequency. Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are higher than they have been for 800,000 years. Climate change is the defining threat of our time. Our duty – to each other and to future generations – is to raise ambition,” he said.

Yet there were also encouraging signs of progress, Mr Guterres said.

“For years, many insisted that lowering emissions would stifle growth, and that high emissions were the unavoidable cost of progress. Today that dogma is dead. We are beginning to decouple emissions from economic growth.”

He added: “Massive economies such as China and India are on track to surpass their Paris pledges. Carbon markets are growing and merging. The green bond market is expanding.”