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EU Council President Tusk meets President Macron et Chancellor Merkel, 20 June 2019 © European CouncilDespite the failure of EU leaders to agree at their meeting of 20 June on a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, European leaders at the very same meeting took a step forward by recognising that building a climate-neutral, green, fair and social Europe needs to be one of the four main priorities guiding the work of the EU in the next five years. How they translate this commitment into action will however be what matters. We take a first look below at what the new Strategic Agenda could mean for Europe.
  1. Despite the lack of an agreement (for now) on a target date, the EU has committed to reaching climate neutrality
By committing to "urgently step up action to manage this existential threat" and "engaging in an in-depth transformation of its own economy and society to achieve climate neutrality", EU leaders have upped the ante and explicitly committed themselves to further action. The first step obviously being to recognise that the EU needs to set a target date for reaching climate neutrality (which in our view should be 2040). Four countries blocked agreement on setting a 2050 deadline but President Tusk has already indicated no country has ruled out the possibility of positive decision on this in the coming months.

Countries committed in the Agenda that they will accelerate the transition to renewables and increase energy efficiency, which could pave the way for a much needed increase in the level of the 2030 targets and thus the EU's Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement. While such an increase is even more contentious than the 2050 climate neutral goal, it is essential to global climate leadership. And by stating that "our policies should be consistent with the Paris Agreement", the Agenda gives the next Commission President an opportunity to review all EU policies or propose new ones on climate grounds, including in the agriculture and industrial sectors.

Leaders also recognised that the success of this transition will depend on the significant mobilisation of public and private investment, which gives a clear mandate to the next Commission to continue with the full implementation of the Sustainable Finance Action Plan, including by adopting with all EU institutions an all-encompassing ranking of economic activities to inform investors, companies and banks how relatively good or bad for the environment all economic activities are.
  1. Biodiversity and environment are finally part of the EU's agenda
Leaders caught up to the fact that the loss of biodiversity poses an existential threat to our livelihoods. After having discussed biodiversity for the last time in 2011 at the level of heads of state and government, EU leaders now state they will 'lead efforts to fight the loss of biodiversity and preserve environmental systems, including oceans" and will work to "enhance the quality of our air and waters, and promote sustainable agriculture".
Countries have the opportunity in 2020 to translate these commitments directly into actions, as they will need to agree at a global level on a new UN framework to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity by 2030. That also means doing its homework by adopting a new biodiversity strategy at the level of EU leaders which focuses on the full implementation, ratcheting and accountability mechanisms that are needed to reverse the decline of nature by 2030.

In order to meet their commitment to promote sustainable agriculture, leaders should take a good look at what their agriculture ministers and MEPs are currently discussing in the context of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. Only a minimal share of the policy's budget is currently awarded to the promotion of sustainable practices. Also the EU's footprint abroad, largely driven by agricultural commodities, should receive urgent attention in the form of an action plan introducing sustainability requirements, including via trade related policies.
  1. Further action on implementation and enforcement must be taken
In order to deliver on their priorities, Leaders state that "good governance depends on rigorous implementation and enforcement of policies decided and rules accepted". If respected, this would be a major victory for the environment, as far too long leaders and the European Commission have turned a blind-eye to the full implementation of EU environmental standards. According to the latest figures published by the Commission in 2019, more than €55 billion is lost annually due to the lack of implementation by EU countries. Poor implementation leads to the continued pollution, destruction of nature and skirting of rules to the disadvantage of citizens as witnessed by e.g. dieselgate.

The next European Commission now has the responsibility to on the one hand step up the monitoring of Member States and to more swiftly, when countries drag their feet, start up infringement procedures to ensure everyone sticks to the policies decided and rules accepted. This is particularly true for the areas of nature conservation and freshwater protection.
  1. Leaders still think in silos and fail to see the bigger picture
Despite dedicating one of the four priorities to a sustainable Europe, leaders failed to recognise the potential of sustainable development in the achievement of other priorities such as protecting citizens, developing a strong and vibrant economic base and promoting Europe's interests and values on the global stage. LIttle reference can be found in these priority areas to sustainability, allowing the EU to continue its silo-approach.

Protecting citizens from emerging threats is not only about the integrity of the EU's territory. It is also about doing more to avoid the impacts that would be brought about by runaway climate change, such as floodings, heatwaves and extended droughts, which have already claimed the lives of more than 115.000 Europeans since 1980. And any migration policy without tackling the root causes, which increasingly includes environment and climatic changes, will fail from its start.

Also, a strong economic base and future international competitiveness will not be possible either without looking at the potential brought by the transformation into a sustainable and green economy. Designing an industrial policy without a focus on full decarbonisation would not bring about the desired results, and a trade policy that lacks attention to upholding the highest sustainability standards and the respect to the Paris Agreement would send a wrong signal to the rest of the world.
Posted: June 21, 2019, 12:00 am
Which 4 countries blocked an EU net zero emissions goal for 2050? 20 June 2019 © WWF EPO / Alex MasonBrussels, Belgium - 20 June 2019
 
Today's European Council failed to deliver an EU climate neutral target for 2050. This is despite the flood of Member States voicing their support for such a target in recent days, reaching 24 in total. In the end, due to opposition from just four countries - the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary and Poland - the text only refers to a "climate-neutral EU", but without mentioning 2050 or any target year. It merely contains a footnote stating that the "large majority" of countries are in favour of a 2050 target.
 
Ester Asin, Director of WWF European Policy Office commented:
"The EU has dealt itself a devastating blow in terms of its climate leadership. It has let down all the people who have been massively calling for climate action in recent months, reducing their hopes for a climate-neutral Europe to a mere footnote.
 
"The 24 Member States who support a climate neutral 2050 target have failed to stick to their guns, and allowed their commitment to be watered down by just four blockers - Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Estonia.  
 
"The reference to being in line with the Paris Agreement in such a flimsy text makes a mockery of that Agreement, and should not be allowed to stand.
 
"A commitment to net zero emissions by 2040, and an update of the EU's 2030 climate target, must be included in the EU's updated climate pledge to the UN. We urge the Finnish EU Presidency and the new EU Commission president to help make it happen urgently."
 
The EU will attend the UN Secretary General's climate summit in September in New York, at which many countries are expected to bring climate pledges that have been updated since the 2015 Paris Agreement. The next official European Council is scheduled for 17-18 October.
 
Contact:
 
Imke Luebbeke, Head, EU Climate and Energy Policy
iluebbeke@wwf.eu +32 2 743 88 18
 
Sarah Azau, Senior Communications Officer,
sazau@wwf.eu +32 473 573 137
Posted: June 20, 2019, 12:00 am
Map of Europe © WWF EPO
Brussels, Belgium - 18 June 2019

Reacting to today's evaluation from the European Commission of EU Member States' energy and climate plans (NECPs), Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at WWF European Policy Office said:

"All the Member States have homework to do on their draft climate and energy plans. While some may be stronger than others, none of them stands up to the ambition of the Paris Agreement. Particularly shameful is some countries squandering easy wins for the climate and the economy by being unambitious on energy efficiency and renewables.

However, the growing support for a net zero emissions target for 2050 - with Germany and Hungary the latest countries to come on board - shows a sea-change in attitudes to climate action. This political shift, along with the massive public support for climate action, opens the way for finalised plans which are transparent, inclusive and ambitious enough to take the EU to 65% emissions reductions by 2030, in line with the Paris Agreement."

Comments from WWF national offices

Karl Schellmann, head of climate and energy, WWF Austria said:
"If the climate plan is not radically improved, there is the threat of a billion-dollar failure to reach the EU targets. Austria needs a genuine ecological tax reform that rewards environmentally friendly behaviour and curbs fossil energies. Every household must receive an ecobonus from this, for companies investments in energy savings and renewable energies as well as labour must become cheaper. Environmentally harmful subsidies must be quickly dismantled and environmentally friendly investments made. At the same time, there is a need for a major energy-saving programme with comprehensive thermal building refurbishment and a turnaround in mobility, including massive expansion of public transport and cycle paths. In addition, freight transport must be shifted more from road to rail and electrification concepts for local transport must be implemented quickly. The resulting sharp drop in energy consumption must be covered by renewable energies. These must always be developed in accordance with nature conservation criteria. The focus must be on solar and wind energy, since hydropower and biomass are already being used to the limits of nature compatibility."

Julie Vandenberghe, Climate Policy Officer at WWF Belgium said:
"Belgium's current masterplan to combat the climate crisis is not fit for purpose. It lacks an integrated approach and fails to give concrete details on policy measures, timing, scope and financial needs. With the backlog Belgium carries along with regards to its 2020 targets, Belgian governments seriously need to step up their ambition for 2030 and beyond. It is time to commit to carbon neutrality latest by 2050, push for an increased EU ambition and put policy measures in place to reach the objectives it committed to when it signed the Paris Agreement.

Georgi Stefanov, Chief Climate and Energy Expert at WWF Bulgaria said:
"The overall EC recommendation approved that Bulgaria needs to further develop its political responsibilities, to increase its 2030 RES target and achieve at least 27%. This is also valid for the energy efficiency field, where the political ambition is very low and the target easily will be achieved with existing measures, which is not enough. Finally the local usage of coal and nuclear is not well defined and explained and there is needs to be further developed and explained why those issues are questions on national security."

Mia Rahunen, Climate Specialist, WWF Finland said:
"Finland's draft Energy and Climate Plan delivered last year does not reflect the ambitious climate goals of the new government and the recently published carbon neutrality goal 2035. Thus we have a reason to expect significant improvements to be made and a public consultation to be arranged before the delivery of the final plan. In order to comply with the 1.5°C target, Finland should aim for 65% emission reductions by 2030. The missing plan to phase out fossil fuel subsidies should of course be added too. We share the concerns of the Commission regarding the sustainability of the use of the biomass and the need for additional information about LULUCF sector, since increased logging rates have significantly reduced forest carbon sinks. Additionally, Finland's current plans to continue use peat energy is contradictory to its carbon neutrality target."

Pierre Cannet, interim co-director of programs, WWF France said;
"The European Commission recommendations on the French climate and energy objectives show clearly that France has to increase its ambition to contribute adequately to European targets, especially on two key pillars of the transition: renewable energy and energy efficiency. The French government has to take additional measures in the building and transport sectors to honour its climate budgets. It confirms what WWF has already pushed for: France has to put urgently energy refurbishment and mobility decarbonisation as a priority, with concrete actions to be integrated into the national regulations currently under discussion. France needs also to align its new budget with the Paris Agreement, in particular by phasing out subsidies to fossil fuels as recommended by the Commission - which are still representing 19 billion euros in 2019. France must finally provide human resources and financial support to be able to build a 'just' transition, ensuring sustainable futures for workers who will be impacted by the energy transition, in particular in coal and nuclear"

WWF Germany - contact Juliette de Grandpré
Juliette.deGrandpre@wwf.de
Senior climate and energy policy advisor
Tel: 030 311 777-213
Mobile: 0151 18854937

Adam Harmat, Climate and Energy Programme Leader, WWF Hungary said:
"Hungary could be a good example in the CEE region in terms of CO2 reduction with the ongoing PV boom, and the fact that the coal-phase out is part of the public debate. However, the government failed to do the tangible and necessary next steps so far, which is reflected in the 2030 planning. As the European Commission highlighted, the renewable and energy efficiency targets are weak and not ambitious enough. Biomass is already playing a significant part of the renewable mix, and the NECP plans to exploit it more. However, there is not a single word mentioned about its sustainability securement. Other significant shortcoming of the government engagement is demonstrated by the lack of planned actions targeting energy poverty, which are also missing from the draft document. The government will have a busy half year, if they intend to fulfil properly the recommendations."

Mariagrazia Midulla, Head of Climate and Energy, WWF Italy said:
"There is plenty of room for improvement, starting from the target for renewables, which is inadequate compared to the European one and the Italian potential. The big problem that is also emerging is the overestimated investments in infrastructure and new gas capacity. We encourage the Government to operate in a systemic way, we can no longer work in watertight compartments, what is done on transport is reflected in the sector electric, and vice versa. We hope that, the opportunity for a direct involvement of the stakeholders will soon arrive."

Oskar Kulik, Climate and Energy Policy Officer, WWF Poland said:
"The feedback of the European Commission (EC) on the Polish NECP resembles our concerns raised on the NECP in February this year. The EC confirms that the proposed 21% RES target for Poland will not be sufficient as an input into the EUs target of 32%.  Also much work has to be done on Energy Efficiency policies and measures. As Poland is challenged with the problem of air pollution insufficient links between combating air pollution and slashing greenhouse gases emissions are shown. What's more, in the perspective of a highly probable net-zero emissions target for the EU by 2050 at the latest the Polish NECP is failing to address this matter.  Consequently, the current version of the NECP cannot be seen as future-proof, by not addressing the arising challenges on the path towards a fully decarbonised economy including the opportunities as well as a just transition for the people in economic sectors at risk.

Gareth Redmond-King, Head of Climate Change, WWF-UK said:
"The UK is the first major economy to put a net-zero emissions target by 2050 into law. This is a crucial first step to address the climate emergency, but now we have to put ambition into action. As has been highlighted today by the EU commission the government must now accelerate delivery of the policies and resource needed to slash our emissions.  WWF UK are calling on the government to make climate action a priority across all departments. This is essential to enable us to heat our homes and fuel our vehicles with clean energy, to restore nature, and to avert climate breakdown. "
 
More information:
See the European Commission communication
See the European Commission recommendations

Contact:
Imke Luebbeke, Head, EU Climate and Energy Policy
iluebbeke@wwf.eu +32 2 743 88 18

Sarah Azau, Senior Communications Officer,
sazau@wwf.eu +32 473 573 137
Posted: June 18, 2019, 12:00 am
The European Commission is to publish an analysis of Member States' draft climate and energy plans for 2030 © European CommissionBrussels, Belgium - 17 June 2019

What's happening?

The European Commission is to publish an analysis of Member States' draft climate and energy plans for 2030 (NECPs), and recommendations on each one tomorrow, 18 June. The final versions of the NECPs are due in by the end of 2019. See national quotes from WWF offices, below.

Why does it matter?

So far none of the NECPs is in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change. In some cases plans also contain a worrying lack of information. For example, some Member States are projecting huge increases in biomass use, but are not saying exactly what they're planning to burn - which could have a big impact on emissions. Member States have until the end of 2019 to update and improve their plans, and the European Commission should provide clear guidance to help them do so.

Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at WWF European Policy Office said:
"No EU country is a Grade A student when it comes to planning climate action, despite huge public support for it. All the draft plans fall short of the Paris Agreement and its 1.5°C limit. Luckily, this is not a final result but a first attempt - Member States have six months to get it right.

National governments must now show political leadership in order to make their plans robust, high-reaching and inclusive. In this way, they will set a vision for a transformed, climate-neutral society which kick-starts actions by everyone from businesses to citizens today.

If this happens, and if national long-term climate plans, due on 1 January 2020, are up to scratch, we can make real progress towards net zero emissions in Europe by 2050 - ideally by 2040. We will be able to reap the health, climate and economic benefits of tackling climate change today."

Comments from WWF national offices

Julie Vandenberghe, Climate Policy Officer at WWF Belgium:
"Belgium's current masterplan to combat the climate crisis is not fit for purpose. It lacks a coherent climate vision and  fails to give concrete details on measures, planning and investment requirements. With the backlog Belgium caries along with regards to its 2020 targets, Belgian governments seriously need to step up their ambition for 2030 and beyond. It is time to commit to carbon neutrality latest by 2050, push for an increased EU ambition and put policy measures in place to reach the objectives it commited to when it signed the Paris Agreement."

Pierre Cannet, Interim conservation co-director at WWF France:
"The French government knows how to take higher ambitious when it comes to long-term ambition and strategies aiming for zero net emissions. But the country hasn't been able to fulfill its climate and energy engagements since COP21. We are therefore calling them to strengthen urgently short term measures to be able to honor this ambition, especially on mobility, housing and energy refurbishment as well as renewables. France has a great potential for more wind and solar energy, yet unexploited nor translated in a contribution at the level to fulfill EU target."

Michael Schäfer, head of the climate and energy department at WWF Germany:
"Germany deserves a red card for its National Energy & Climate plan. Instead of being a frontrunner in the EU, it is lagging behind on some of the most important issues in tackling the climate crisis. This year the German government must push for climate neutrality in the EU by 2050 at the very latest, it must push for more ambition within the EU's contribution to the Paris agreement and it must introduce measures to achieve its own as well as the European climate targets for the next decades."

Stavros Mavrogenis, Climate and Energy Policy Leader at WWF Greece:
"
Greece is one out of 7 countries in the EU that has no plan for a coal phase-out and on the contrary intends to keep 70% of lignite installed capacity by 2030. The Greek NECP is not compatible with the Paris Agreement  1.5ºC threshold and instead of that will put the country into a 3.1 to 3.7 ºC by the end of the century. Greece has the potential to increase the RES share in the energy mix and develop more ambitious goals for energy efficiency, energy storage and especially reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the non-ETS sector."

Mariagrazia Midulla, Head of Climate and Energy at WWF Italy:
"We appreciate that the Italian NECP confirms the coal phase out, but we would like a stronger impulse to renewable energies and less pressure to further expand the role of gas in infrastructure, mobility and the thermoelectric sector. In general, there is a lack of operative policies and measures in all sectors, including energy efficiency. Italy should be braver in planning and starting the process of the way out from all fossil fuels and in preparing to seize all the opportunities of transition, fairly and promptly. Last but not least, we hope that the Commission will encourage the Italian Government to a better consultation and involvement of stakeholders.".
 
Mar Asunción, Head of Climate and Energy WWF Spain
"The Energy and Climate Plan presented by the Spanish government, although more ambitious than the proposals made previously, is less than halfway to what Spain should do to help bring the global temperature increase below the 1.5ºC threshold. Bearing in mind that we are a very vulnerable country to the impacts of climate change, and the climate emergency situation we face, the emission reduction target for 2030 should be at least -50% with respect to 1990, significantly increasing the ambition of the NECP's proposed -20%." 
 
Gareth Redmond-King, Head of Climate Change at WWF-UK
"The UK is the first major economy to put a net-zero emissions target by 2050 into law.  This is a crucial first step to address the climate emergency. The government must now accelerate delivery of the policies and resource needed to slash our emissions, and they must make climate action a priority across all departments.  This is essential to enable us to heat our homes and fuel our vehicles with clean energy, to restore nature, and to avert climate breakdown."

More information:

Draft National Energy and Climate plans

The European Commission will publish three set of documents:
  1. Communication: Explaining the process, priorities and very general and cross-cutting mentions: link to 2050 LTSs; sector specific recommendations, etc.
  2. Country-specific legal recommendations (28): Likely to be fairly high-level and short. It will include about 10 recommendations that Member States should take on board.
  3. Country-specific assessments (28): Staff working documents of around 10 pages assessing each plan.
The Commission will also publish:
  • an aggregation exercise to see whether the EU targets are met (and they will do assumptions on the targets of those MS that did not provide targets on their draft NECPs).
  • the national contributions for the share of RES after applying the formula of Annex II of the Governance Regulation.
The European Council is meeting on Thursday and Friday 20-21 June (this week). EU leaders will discuss the EU draft long-term climate strategy and a possible net zero target for 2050 - see WWF's media advisory and table of Member State positions. They will also debate the 'Strategic Agenda' - the planned EU priorities for the next five years - and consider who is to be the future president of the European Commission.

Contact:
Imke Luebbeke, Head, EU Climate and Energy Policy
iluebbeke@wwf.eu +32 2 743 88 18

Sarah Azau, Senior Communications Officer 
sazau@wwf.eu +32 473 573 137
Posted: June 17, 2019, 12:00 am
EU Member States on net zero 2050 target © WWF EPOBrussels, Belgium - 17 June 2019

What's happening?
European heads of state and government are meeting on 20-21 June. They are due to discuss the draft EU long-term climate strategy and its possible net zero target for 2050, with more Member States coming out recently in support of such a target (see table here for national positions and explanations on net zero as of 17 June).

The summit will also focus on the EU's priorities for the next five years - the 'Strategic Agenda' - and who is to get the top EU jobs for the next five years - with a particular focus on the position of European Commission President.

Why does it matter?
Achieving zero net emissions (sometimes called "climate neutrality") in Europe is critical for a sustainable future. WWF considers that to be in line with the Paris climate agreement, the EU should be at zero net emissions by 2040. So far, 16 of the 28 Member States are officially on board.

This is EU leaders' last official opportunity to agree on a higher long-term climate target before the UN secretary general's Global Climate Action Summit in September, where as many as 80 countries are expected to raise their climate pledges.

Agreeing on a timeline for net zero this week would send a strong signal of the EU's commitment to the Paris Agreement and its leadership on climate change to other countries - as would signalling that the EU will subsequently increase its 2030 target accordingly. It would also set a good course for the to be appointed European Commission President who must be able to show a clear agenda on climate, environment and sustainability before being elected by the European Parliament.

Climate action is a major part of achieving a sustainable Europe. The overall direction will be set by the Strategic Agenda, which will define what the EU focuses on from 2019 to 2024.

It is crucial to get it right: temperature rise, pollution, and biodiversity decline is already putting our safety, health and economy at risk. There is huge public support for action for climate and nature, and there are massive economic, health and social benefits to be reaped from it. EU leaders must help shape a sustainable Europe, through a strong common and positive vision, before it is too late.

Ester Asin, Director of WWF European Policy Office said:
"As we stare down the barrel of a climate catastrophe, we need all EU countries to put their weight behind a net zero climate target for 2040. It is no good half-heartedly supporting it one day then staying silent the next.

We need clear political leadership to show that the EU means business on climate action. This will help everyone from policy-makers to companies to individuals to take the decisions that will enable us to tackle the climate crisis.

The upcoming EU summit is also a chance to put in place an EU Commission president and a Strategic Agenda which can drive the EU towards a sustainable future. Sustainability needs to be at the forefront of EU leaders' thinking and policy actions must be taken to tackle climate change, reverse the loss of biodiversity by 2030 and fully implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Without decisive action, a thriving future for Europe will not be possible."

Member State positions on EU net zero goal for 2050 (as of 17 June 2019)


More information

What is WWF calling for?

On the Strategic Agenda and the mandate of the next European Commission President
 
WWF is calling for the 2019-2024 Strategic Agenda to make a priority of sustainable development and the fight against climate change and environmental degradation. On the basis of this and the European Parliament's call for action, the next Commission President should in turn:
  • Appoint a Vice-President for Climate Action and Natural Resources, leading on the development and transformation of the 8th Environmental Action Programme into a European Sustainability Pact guiding the EU's sustainability agenda for the decade to come
     
  • Commit to personally overseeing the adoption of an overarching and high-level implementation strategy for the UN Sustainable Development Goals
     
  • Take immediate action to increase the EU's domestic GHG reduction target for 2030 up to 65%, considering the broad agreement for net-zero emissions by 2050 the latest. Step up enforcement action on the implementation of EU environmental law. Present a plan for large-scale nature restoration and connectivity across Europe
     
  • Put  forward an EU Footprint Action Plan tackling the impacts of the EU's consumption and resource dependence on people and nature abroad
On the long-term climate strategy

WWF is calling for a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target to be set for 2040. The EU has a responsibility to set the pace on climate action, given its historical emissions compared to those of other parts of the world. If the EU reaches net zero by 2040 in a socially fair and just manner, it will have played its part in keeping global temperature rise to 1.5°C, as it committed to do under the Paris climate agreement.

In May, the UN Secretary-General sent the EU a letter calling for a higher 2030 climate target of 55%.


If Member States do not agree on net zero by 2050 in June, they may have an opportunity to do so at an informal meeting in mid-July. The next official European Council is scheduled for 17-18 October.

The European Commission is also due to publish an analysis of Member States' draft climate and energy plans for 2030 (NECPs), and recommendations on each one tomorrow, 18 June. The final versions of the NECPs are due in by the end of 2019.

Contact:

Imke Luebbeke, Head, EU Climate and Energy Policy
iluebbeke@wwf.eu +32 2 743 88 18

Sarah Azau, Senior Communications Officer,
sazau@wwf.eu +32 473 573 13
Posted: June 17, 2019, 12:00 am
UN flags flying outside the World Conference Centre in Bonn, where mid-year sessions of the UN climate talks take place annually. © Naoyuki Yamagishi GLAND, Switzerland (17 June 2019) – Climate negotiators gather in Bonn today for the annual mid-year session of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It takes place against a backdrop of rising demands by citizens for stepped up climate action, increased evidence of the effect climate change is having on lives and livelihoods, and species and ecosystems on which we depend; and inertia by governments to move with the necessary speed and scale needed to tackle the climate crisis.
 
WWF Global Climate Policy Senior Advisor Mark Lutes said: 'In the face of a climate crisis unlike the world has ever seen, people, especially the youth, are becoming impatient with government dragging their heels. If we fail to peak emissions by 2020 and close the projected 2030 gap to keep global warming to 1.5°C, we will risk putting the planet on a pathway to an irreversible and deepening climate crisis. To keep the promise of Paris alive we need to see significant advances at the meeting of climate negotiators in Bonn that lead to bold commitments.'
 
COP24 in Katowice signalled the expectation that by 2020, countries should come back with updated and improved country climate plans (Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs) . The COP adopted a nearly complete package of rules to implement the Paris Agreement, leaving some things to be dealt with in Bonn, and at COP25 in Santiago, Chile, in December.
 
The IPCC's Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C was at the center of COP24, said Lutes. 'It put our common challenge in stark terms: we need rapid and deep cuts to global greenhouse gas emissions to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.'
 
The focus from COP24 on increasing ambition must continue in 2019. Countries must arrive at the UN Secretary General's Climate Action Summit on 23 September ready to announce revised NDCs or plans to deliver them by 2020. These must be matched by ambitious new finance commitments to address mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage. COP 25 must respond to and build on the Climate Action Summit, he said.
 
WWF's expectations for the SB50 meeting in Bonn are:
 
Update Nationally Determined Contributions by 2020 in line with 1.5°C
2019 is the year for governments to put national processes in place to ensure the updated NDCs are aligned with 1.5°C. Parties must pursue every opportunity this year to support this effort, including the mobilisation of finance and other means of support, and the urgent near term actions described below. Governments can also include in their NDCs international collaborations or joint initiatives, including by sub-national and non-State actors, that contribute to their national targets with potential spill-over effects in other global economic sectors or countries. Countries with the greatest capacity and responsibility, especially developed countries, need to demonstrate and strengthen their leadership in reducing their emissions and mobilising financial, technological and capacity-building support.
 
Urgent actions and mobilising multiple actors
Economy-wide NDCs and national level climate plans, targets and legislation are front in the battle against dangerous climate change. Furthermore countries getting on the front-line of innovative partnerships and collaboration will be key to scale existing solutions and move from incremental to exponential action.
 
Filling the gaps and strengthening institutions
Despite the progress on the rulebook at COP24, Parties were not able to agree on rules for Article 6 (carbon markets and non-market approaches) and on common time frames for NDCs. These two topics were deferred to be negotiated in Bonn in June at SB50, with the aim of concluding them by COP25. It is critical that substantial progress be made on these elements in Bonn as other elements that were not part of the Paris Agreement Work Programme are also in need of conclusion by COP25, such as  discussions on loss and damage finance and the operationalisation of the Global Goal on Adaptation.
 
For further information, contact
Mandy Jean Woods mwoods@wwfint.org

 
Posted: June 13, 2019, 12:00 am
Youth activists march to demand an end to climate action inertia. © Paul Gamblin / WWFBERLIN, Germany (24 May, 2018) – Today, young people, parents, and concerned citizens from all over the world came out onto the streets of their capitals to send a clear message to their leaders: We demand you act on climate change.
 
Inspired by the Fridays for Future movement, the global day of action saw an more than 1 500 events in more than 119 countries demand an end to the age of fossil fuels and emergency action to avoid climate breakdown. Around one and a half million people are expected to turn out today.
 
Fridays for Future Vienna co-ordinator and Generation Earth member Philipp Wilfinger said: "We are facing a crisis that threatens our very existence. We no longer want to see our future put at risk. Every climate strike increases the pressure on decision-makers to finally take environmental protection seriously. You are never too small to make a difference!."
 
Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF's global climate and energy practice said: 'Youth across the world have come together with a simple ask for their leaders: stop greenhouse gas emissions, now. There are many steps to making this happen, but we already have the solutions and know what needs to be done. The bigger question is whether these leaders will answer their plea.' 
 
Vanessa Perez-Cirera, deputy leader of WWF's global climate and energy practice said: 'The youth of the world are speaking and we should listen. World leaders need to take this seriously, move quickly, and ensure these children have the secure future they are asking for.'

The next global day of action will be held on 20th September this year, just two days before the UN Climate Summit on 23 September in New York. It will be hosted by the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and many heads of state are expected to attend.
 
For further information, contact:  Mandy Jean Woods mwoods@wwfint.org  
Posted: May 24, 2019, 12:00 am
Since 2007, the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme has been working intensively on eutrophication issues, with a particular focus on agriculture's impacts on the Baltic Sea. WWF is committed to reducing the threat of eutrophication to the Baltic Ecosystem and is therefore working to dramatically reduce the inputs of both phosphorus and nitrogen to the sea with a specific focus on promoting the application of environmentally friendly farming practices in order to reduce nutrient runoff to the Baltic Sea. © (c) WWF Hanna VirtanenBrussels, Belgium - 14 May 2019

EU agriculture ministers appeared to begin to recognise the urgency of climate action, and the crucial role farming has to play, as they considered the EU's draft long-term climate strategy today. While many ministers highlighted the difficulties in cutting emissions in agriculture, there was the beginnings of a discussion on how to make it happen.


Despite this, there were alarming signs that there could be a headlong rush into biomass. Using land for biofuel or energy crops for example or harvesting more wood for fuel will increase emissions even compared to fossil fuels - but there are no restrictions in the EU's revised Renewable Energy Directive to stop that happening.

Imke Lübbeke, Head of Climate and Energy at WWF European Policy Office said:
"Farming can play a crucial role in helping the EU reach net zero emissions by 2040, which is what we need to be in line with the Paris Agreement. It is splendid that agriculture ministers today finally seemed to be getting the message on climate change. However, the sector needs to move faster to make the most of the contribution land and soil can add  in terms of carbon absorption, and protect farmers and foresters from the worst of climate damage. On the other side using biomass energy use must be limited - with no meaningful sustainability criteria in the Renewable Energy Directive that's likely to make things worse not better."

Jabier Ruiz, Senior Policy Officer for Agriculture at WWF European Policy Office said:
"After the debate today, there is little doubt that EU's farming sector could become a lead actor in the fight against climate change, but Agriculture Ministers have not fully realised they have a responsibility to make this happen. With the right political will, the Common Agricultural Policy post-2020 could be shifted away from the current payments system and offer good incentives for farmers engaging in this transition towards climate-friendly farming."

There is a chance now to improve the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for the climate and nature as it undergoes the 'reform' process. Unfortunately, a crucial piece of evidence for this reform - an assessment of CAP's impact on the climate - has still not been published by the European Commission, even though it was submitted last year. WWF therefore filed a request for the assessment on 3 May 2019. The European Commission has 8 working days left to reply.

Ministers were discussing the EU's draft long-term climate strategy 'A clean planet for all' at an afternoon session of their Council today. Their views will be fed into the European Council discussion in June, along with those from other Council formations, with many Member States pushing for EU leaders to then endorse the Commission's proposed net zero 2050 goal.

Contact:

Imke Luebbeke, Head, EU Climate and Energy Policy
iluebbeke@wwf.eu +32 2 743 88 18

Jabier Ruiz Mirazo, Senior Policy Officer, Agriculture & Food
jruiz@wwf.eu +32 470 66 81 91​

Sarah Azau, Senior Communications Officer,
sazau@wwf.eu +32 473 573 137
Posted: May 14, 2019, 12:00 am
A new report from WWF and The Nature Conservancy demonstrates how renewable energy  can solve the world's climate and energy challenge without sacrificing its remaining free-flowing rivers and the diverse benefits they provide to people and nature.  © Richard Hamilton Smith PARIS, France (13 May 2019) – With thousands of hydropower dams planned across the globe, a new report from WWF and The Nature Conservancy demonstrates how the renewable energy revolution can solve the world's climate and energy challenge without sacrificing its remaining free-flowing rivers and the diverse benefits they provide to people and nature.

Launched on the eve of the World Hydropower Congress in Paris, Connected and Flowing: A renewable future for rivers, climate and people details the transformations that are already underway and how the world can capitalize on these opportunities to achieve sustainable power systems.

Thanks to the plunging costs of solar power, wind generation and storage technologies – as well as significant advances in energy efficiency and grid management – it is now possible for the world to expand electricity generation to provide power to the billion people who currently lack access, while drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and preserving tens to hundreds of thousands of kilometres of free-flowing rivers.

"We can not only envision a future where electricity systems are accessible, affordable and powering economies with a mix of renewable energy, we can now build that future," said Jeff Opperman, WWF Freshwater Scientist and lead author on the report. "By accelerating the renewable energy revolution, we can secure a brighter future for people and nature with power systems that are low carbon, low cost and low impact."

With contributions from multiple academics, the report found that accelerating the renewable revolution could prevent nearly 165,000 km of river channels from being fragmented, while still helping to limit global temperatures to below a rise of 1.5⁰ C. Along with tackling climate change, this would help slow the catastrophic decline in freshwater species populations, which have fallen by 83% since 1970.

Mark Lambrides, The Nature Conservancy's Director of Energy and Infrastructure said: "A key recommendation of last week's landmark global assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services was for governments to protect and restore river connectivity. Here we show how, for the first time, the renewable energy revolution offers an opportunity to plan for the right mix of renewable sources in power systems, while avoiding fragmenting rivers, potentially displacing communities and contributing to the loss of freshwater fisheries that feed millions."

The report comes days after a global study published in Nature revealed that just 37% of the world's longest rivers remain free-flowing, with dams and reservoirs the leading cause of this connectivity loss.

Healthy free-flowing rivers deliver a number of critical ecosystem services. They support freshwater fish stocks that improve food security for hundreds of millions of people, deliver sediment that keeps deltas above rising seas, mitigate the impact of extreme floods and droughts, and prevent loss of infrastructure and fields to erosion.
While the renewable revolution will not signal an end to hydropower development, it does herald a significant reduction in new dams and a shift towards low-impact projects, which support the expansion of solar and wind – such as retrofitting existing hydropower dams, adding turbines to non-powered dams, and off channel pumped storage.

The potential of utility-scale, low-impact wind and solar – on converted lands, such as agricultural and degraded land and rooftops – represents the equivalent of 17 times the renewable energy targets that countries have committed to under the Paris Climate Agreement and should allow almost all countries to achieve power systems that are low carbon, low cost, and low impact on nature. For example:
  • Recent studies indicate countries in Southeast Asia can develop low carbon, low cost power systems that do not require dams on the Mekong river or its few remaining, free-flowing major tributaries.
  • In Uganda, a scenario modelled for this report that avoided two potential hydropower dams within national parks had no impacts on power system costs.
The report calls for governments to create competitive frameworks to accelerate the renewable revolution. Governments should also reassess their existing hydropower plans by factoring in the full value of rivers – including the ecosystem services they provide – and considering lower impact alternatives. Meanwhile developers and financiers should support more comprehensive planning to develop a pipeline of lower-risk projects.

"If we do not rapidly seize the opportunity to accelerate the renewable revolution, unnecessary, high-impact hydropower dams could still be built on iconic rivers such as the Mekong, Irrawaddy, and Amazon – and dozens or hundreds of others around the world," said Opperman. "It would be a great tragedy if the full social and environmental benefits of the renewable revolution arrived just a few years too late to safeguard the world's great rivers and all the diverse benefits they provide to people and nature."

For more information:
Richard Lee,  WWF Freshwater Communications, +31 654 287956, rlee@wwfint.org
Tom Jennings, TNC Senior Media Relations Manager +44 (0)7403 995994 tom.jennings@tnc.org

Notes for the editor:
The full Connected and Flowing: A renewable future for rivers, climate and people as well as the stand alone Executive Summary can be downloaded here
Photos can be downloaded from TNC and WWF
Posted: May 13, 2019, 12:00 am
Cover of WWF & TNC report on renewable revolution © Richard Hamilton Smith / 2019 iStockphoto LPThe thousands of hydropower dams planned globally are threatening the world's free-flowing rivers and the benefits they provide. Yet these dams are not necessary for the global goals of fighting climate change and bringing clean electricity to all, thanks to the plunging costs of solar power, wind generation and storage technologies, a new report from WWF and The Nature Conservancy reveals.

With contributions from multiple academics, the report finds that accelerating the development of wind and solar could prevent nearly 165,000 km of river channels from being fragmented, while still helping to limit global temperatures to below a rise of 1.5⁰ C, as agreed in the Paris Climate Accord. Along with tackling climate change, this would help slow the catastrophic decline in freshwater species populations, which have fallen by 83% since 1970.

Andreas Baumüller, Head of Natural Resources at  WWF's European Policy Office, said:
"Clean energy does not equal green energy. In Europe we have at least 25,000 hydropower plants in operation, and it is the rivers, wildlife, and communities living alongside them who are paying the ultimate price. It is time that EU governments recognised that dams have had their day in Europe. They must now wholeheartedly commit to their obligations under the EU Water Framework Directive, take dam removal seriously, and say no to any damaging projects in the pipeline."

Alex Mason, Senior Energy Policy Officer at  WWF's European Policy Office, said:
"Renewable energy is the future. But we need to choose renewables which are good for the climate and which can be built without damaging nature - for example solar and wind. Cost-competitive with fossil fuels and way cheaper than nuclear, there is simply no reason not to ramp up wind and solar provided they are properly planned, while investing in smart grids and storage. EU Member States must put their money on the right renewable energy horse when they finalise their climate plans  this year."

Launched on the eve of the World Hydropower Congress in Paris, Connected and Flowing: A renewable future for rivers, climate and people details the transformations that are already underway and how the world can capitalize on these opportunities to achieve sustainable power systems.

The construction and operation of hydropower has terrible impacts on rivers – fragmenting channels and altering the river's natural flow, destroying habitats, blocking fish migration routes (thus preventing them from spawning and reproducing), and threatening already vulnerable specie.[1] With the plunging costs of solar power, wind generation and storage technologies – as well as significant advances in energy efficiency and grid management – it is now possible for the world to expand electricity generation to provide power to the billion people who currently lack access, while drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and preserving tens to hundreds of thousands of kilometres of free-flowing rivers. 

Despite the fact that the EU's potential for hydropower has already been largely harnessed, thousands of hydropower dams are still projected to be built all across Europe. Eastern Europe and the Balkans, which hold some of Europe's most pristine and last few remaining free flowing rivers, are especially vulnerable. There has also been a worrying surge in hydropower in parts of Central and Western Europe, where rivers have been heavily modified and degraded for centuries. 

While the renewable revolution will not signal an end to hydropower development, it does herald a significant reduction in new dams and a shift towards low-impact projects, which support the expansion of solar and wind – such as retrofitting existing hydropower dams, adding turbines to non-powered dams, and off channel pumped storage.

Contact:
Sarah Azau
Senior Communications & Media Officer (Climate and Energy)
sazau@wwf.eu 
+32 473 57 31 37

Sophie Bauer, Communications Officer (Freshwater)
sbauer@wwf.eu     
+32 471 05 25 1

[1] Healthy free-flowing rivers deliver a number of critical ecosystem services. They support freshwater fish stocks that improve food security for hundreds of millions of people, deliver sediment that keeps deltas above rising seas, mitigate the impact of extreme floods and droughts, and prevent loss of infrastructure and fields to erosion.

Key facts and figures:
  • Costs for solar and wind are now approaching US$0.05/kWh – comparable to the low end of the fossil fuel range and the average cost of hydropower.
  • Renewable sources represented two-thirds of new global power generation capacity in 2018, led by wind and solar.
  • The addition of hydropower capacity has been declining since 2013 due to the falling costs of competing technologies as well as a broader set of challenges, including high-profile cancellations, growing hydrological risks, cost and schedule over-runs, technical challenges, and increasing social resistance.
Posted: May 13, 2019, 12:00 am
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