EU Environment Ministers Keep Faith with Paris Accord

EU environment ministers at their July 14 informal meeting in Estonia's capital Tallinn "reaffirmed Europe’s commitment to the Paris agreement and discussed the opportunities and challenges ahead," according to a statement issued jointly by the EU Council and its current Estonian presidency.

"The EU has promised to reduce its carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 and we will keep our promises. It is not always easy, but in the long run, it will benefit not only the environment, but also the well-being of our people and the competitiveness of our economy,“ said Estonian environment minister Siim Kiisler who chaired the meeting. Estonia chairs EU ministerial meetings for the six months until the end of 2017. 

"As the G20 leaders recently stated, a strong economy and a healthy planet are mutually reinforcing and the Paris agreement is irreversible," added Kiisler, noting that the Estonian Presidency's programme includes the reform of the EU's Emissions Trading System, reducing emissions in sectors falling outside the ETS, and pushing forward with the Clean Energy Package -- all with the aim of implementing the 2015 Paris agenda.

Ministers said working with the private sector and local authorities was essential for making the global agreement a success and also heard from Shell chairman Charles Holliday, the CEO of the European Climate Foundation Laurence Tubiana, and ambassador Hussein Alfa Nafo of Mali who chairs the African group of negotiators in the Paris process.

From Tallinn to Paris

France's President Emmanuel Macron meanwhile treated US President Donald Trump to pride of place at the country's national holiday celebrations in Paris on July 14, but is expected to repeat his remarks that the Paris Climate Accord is "irreversible", a stance shared across the EU and in China.

Trump on June 1 pledged to take his country out of the 2015 Paris Accord, which may mean no financial commitments from the US towards the process for the next two years until legally, the US legally can initiate the process of withdrawal on November 5 2019.

The International Energy Agency's chief economist Laszlo Varro however said July 7 that a US withdrawal is unlikely to lead to a resurgence of coal-fired power in the US, adding: "The last time an investor put money into a coal-fired plant in the US was 2011; the collapse in investor confidence in coal took place under [George W] Bush when the shale gas boom took off."

The IEA, in a report published July 13, said that demand for gas will grow faster than coal and oil over the next five years and that, while gas use in power generation will grow globally by only 1%, its use in generation would see higher growth in China and the Middle East out to 2022.


Mark Smedley


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