European and Global Climate Policy

© Mark Garten, UN Photo

Climate change is seen by many countries and non-state actors as one of the central global challenges of the 21st century. Climate policy seeks both to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to limit the magnitude of climate change (mitigation) and to initiate measures for coping with the consequences (adaptation; losses and damages). Moreover, a scientific debate has emerged about the use of technologies to deliberately intervene in parts of the climate system (climate engineering), which broadens the scope of dealing with climate change-related challenges.

In 2015 the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) concluded the Paris Agreement for the period after 2020. For the first time, the new climate agreement attributes the same importance to adaptation as it does to the mitigation of climate change, including climate finance. The rulebook for the treaty was nearly finished in 2018 at COP 24 in Katowice, Poland; some issues remain and await clarification at the next COP. The parties to the Paris Agreement are obliged to pledge nationally determined contributions (NDCs), that is, climate policy targets that show which mitigation action, adaptation measures, and financial contributions or needs they are planning for. Under the treaty, the NDCs will be updated every five years (starting in 2020), and the parties have agreed to progress in their ambitions. Moreover, global climate action will be reviewed every five years in view of the (well below) 2 degrees Celsius target and the 1.5 degrees limit in the global temperature (global stock take, 2023).

The EU has implemented the Paris Agreement by translating its 2030 emissions target into legislation. A new NDC is due in 2020, and the European Commission plans to follow up with more ambitions, in accordance with the “Green Deal.” For the long-term policy target under the Paris Agreement, namely the “balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century” (Article 4.1), the European Commission drafted a 2050 climate strategy (“A Clean Planet for all”) already in November 2018. The goal of greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050 is guiding the scenarios. The EU-wide emission reduction target for 2030 is supposed to rise from 40 percent (compared to 1990 levels) to 50 percent or more. Furthermore, the Green Deal proposal includes making European climate law the top legislative project, which was initiated in March 2020. The Green Deal agenda is comprehensive, cross-sectoral, and merges EU climate actions with energy governance and economic policies. Given the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Green Deal agenda will have to be adjusted along the concept of a “green stimulus,” mainly through investment priorities for climate-friendly projects.

Germany holds a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 2019 and 2020, and it continues the debate on the security policy implications of climate change. Sweden and the Netherlands had led debates on climate change risks in the UNSC in 2018 and 2017, respectively. Under the German UNSC presidency in 2011, a presidential statement was adopted. In 2017, the Lake Chad Resolution named climate change as a driver of violent conflicts in the region. On 25 January 2019, the Dominican Republic held an open debate on the subject, and Germany will raise the issue again in summer 2020. The focus will most likely be the need for preventive global action and better coordination, because a key goal is to increase resilience against food, water, and health crises – all included in the 2030 Agenda – which are seen as drivers of conflict and amplified by climate impacts.


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Susanne Dröge

Addressing the Risks of Climate Change

What Role for the UN Security Council?

SWP Research Paper 2020/RP 06, June 2020, 34 Pages


Susanne Dröge, Carolyn Fischer

Carbon Pricing at the Border: Key Questions for the EU

in: ifo DICE Report 18 (1), April 2020, p. 30-34
Rachel Kyte, Oliver Geden, Charlotte Streck, Adil Najam, Gabrielle Dreyfus, Maria Ivanova

Bridging the Science-Policy Divide

in: OneEarth, Vol. 2, April 2020, pp. 300-301
Holly Jean Buck, Laura Jane Martin, Oliver Geden, et al.

Evaluating the efficacy and equity of environmental stopgap measures

in: Nature Sustainability, July 2020, Vol. 3, pp. 499-504
Kasturi Das, Harro van Asselt, Susanne Dröge, Michael Mehling

Towards a Trade Regime that Works for the Paris Agreement

in: Economic & Political Weekly, Volume 54, Issue 50, December 2019, p. 25-30
Susanne Dröge, Michael Mehling, Harro van Asselt, Kasturi Das

What a European ‘carbon border tax’ might look like

in: VOX, CEPR Policy Portal, 10.12.2019 (online)
Susanne Dröge, Michael Mehling, Harro van Asselt, Kasturi Das

Comment: What critics of a European ‘carbon border tax’ are missing

in: Carbon Pulse, 03.12.2019 (online)
Rob Bellamy, Oliver Geden

Govern CO₂ removal from the ground up

in: Nature Geoscience, Vol. 12, pp. 874–876
Susanne Dröge, Karsten Neuhoff, Christian Egenhofer, Milan Elkerbout

Options for EU trade policy to enhance climate action

Strategic and tactical considerations for incentivising low-carbon investment and addressing carbon leakage

Research Division Global Issues | WP 2019/Nr. 01, September 2019, 13 pages
Oliver Geden, Felix Schenuit

Climate Neutrality as Long-term Strategy

The EU’s Net Zero Target and Its Consequences for Member States

SWP Comment 2019/C 33, August 2019, 4 Pages


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