Interview: Miguel Arias Cañete
What is the EU’s commitment under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change?
MIGUEL ARIAS CAÑETE: The EU has been at the forefront of international efforts to fight climate change, and is committed to helping secure an ambitious global climate deal in Paris in December 2015. Our leaders have agreed on a legally binding target to reduce EU greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 1990. Urgent action is needed to reduce emissions and manage risks. This will require stronger provisions for international cooperation in terms of adaptation, and different forms of support to countries most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. The people of Papua New Guinea understand the consequences of climate change. They and others in the Pacific are on the front line, and are already witnessing the adverse impact first hand.
The EU accounts for less than 9% of total global emissions so action by all countries, including emerging economies, is necessary. Paris presents a unique opportunity. It is vital that it delivers an ambitious, legally binding agreement applicable to all countries that will help the world avoid dangerous climate change.
The EU is seeking an agreement containing fair and ambitious commitments from all parties that responds to today's global economic and geopolitical realities. To be robust and credible, the agreement also needs to deliver common rules for transparency and accountability, with systems to monitor, report and verify progress towards meeting targets. The new agreement must be capable of keeping the world on track to its goal of limiting the global temperature rise to below 2°C. To ensure this, all emissions reductions commitments should be reviewed and strengthened every five years in light of progress and the latest data.
Could EU policies on renewables serve as an example for the emerging Asia-Pacific economies?
ARIAS CAÑETE: Renewable energy is an essential part of the EU’s vision for a sustainable and climate change resilient future and will play a key role for all economies in the transition to low-carbon development. Renewables underpin every dimension of the Energy Union strategy we launched in 2015. They will contribute to decarbonising our economy, making our power system more flexible, improving our energy security and lowering our energy bills. EU member states design their own domestic renewable energy policies, as they are best-placed to choose the mix that suits their needs.
Renewable energy provides 15% of the EU’s energy. We aim to increase this to 20% by 2020 and to at least 27% by 2030. Setting bold targets has paid off, giving industry the predictability it needs for efficient investment in stimulating innovation and reducing the costs of technologies. Such policies could also prove very effective in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly given its rich solar, hydro and wind resources.
What EU initiatives are tackling deforestation and unsustainable agriculture in PNG?
ARIAS CAÑETE: The EU recognises the threat deforestation poses in PNG to one of the world’s most significant areas of intact tropical forests. We are supporting PNG’s Forest Authority in its efforts to identify areas affected by deforestation, unsustainable agriculture and illegal logging, and to establish effective measures to deal with these. We are also supporting the University of PNG as it creates the first PNG Forest Monitoring Portal, which will provide accurate images showing forest extent, and the locations where activities causing deforestation and degradation are occurring.
These projects will help alleviate the effects of climate change. PNG can contribute to tackling these issues by reinforcing its environmental and forestry governance. We also invite our partners to consider joining the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade process. This voluntary scheme will strengthen sustainable and legal forest management, and will help to mitigate the serious risk that climate change poses to the Asia-Pacific region and to all of us.
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