Born in 1977 in Ettelbruck, Carole Dieschbourg is an integral voice within our Luxembourgish member party, Déi Gréng / Les Verts / Die Grünen. Following the legislative elections of October 20 2013, the Greens in Luxembourg joined, for the first time, a three-party-coalition government together with the Liberal Democratic Party and the Luxembourg Socialist Workers' Party. Ms. Dieschbourg joined the government with a prestigious Green position as Minister for the Environment.
She will represent the EU at the upcoming COP21 Climate Change Negotiations in Paris. Ahead of the conference, the Minister talked to us about her vision for the negotiations, and what the role of the EU should be in the challenge of our time: the fight against climate change. Ms. Dieschbourg delves into what an ambitious agreement should consist of, what she expects from Paris, and tells us about her meeting with the Pope.
EGP: You will represent the EU during the UN Conference on Climate Change. How do you see your role in embodying the bloc’s mandate in the negotiations?
Carole Dieschbourg: My role is to speak together with the Commission on behalf of the European Union and to ensure that the EU has a coordinated position before and also in Paris. I am representing the EU at many bilateral meetings and high-level meetings such as the “Petersberg Dialogue” in May or the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate: this forum brings together 17 major economies and I organised one in Luxembourg with the US and am attending one now in New York.
EGP: What do you think the role of the EU should be in these negotiations? Is the EU position for the Conference (Environment Council 18/09) up to the task, in your opinion?
Carole Dieschbourg: It was important to reach consensus on a common EU-mandate for this negotiations and we achieved a balanced compromise with a clear Long-Term-target and a procedure how to reach this target. The mandate clearly says greenhouse gas emissions need to peak by 2020 at the latest and be reduced by at least 50 percent by 2050 versus 1990 levels globally. As the national emission reduction targets countries have put on the table so far aren’t enough to keep global warming to that limit, we need a long term goal in the agreement that gives a clearer direction of travel, translating the 2°C into more operational language. We also need regular review cycles that help to increase ambition over time.
I am aware that some countries wanted to have an even more ambitious EU-position but we avoided a blocked situation by tabling a compromise. With this Mandate, the EU will continue to show leadership towards Paris and facilitate a global agreement that is acceptable for all parties. We should make it clear to the world, that the EU is still the leader in climate change and that transition is taking place.
We need to consolidate this position and defend it in Paris. We can show that the EU is serious with its pledges: it has already submitted a commitment to the United Nations to cut emissions by at least 40 percent versus 1990 levels by 2030.
It is also important that we get clear rules in Paris to ensure we have transparency on the commitments of Parties, and accountability on their fulfilment. There are other building blocks for the agreement, but these are some of the essentials the EU is putting forward and for which we will work together with other nations that have the same positions.
EGP: What’s, in concrete, a “legally binding” mechanism to limit global warming? How has it been implemented until now, at EU level, and what will change in the future?
Carole Dieschbourg: The new agreement will be legally binding – the mandate adopted at the Durban COP in 2011 states that the new agreement must be “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties”. So that is what all Parties are working towards.
This won’t be the only binding mechanism on climate change the world has seen – the Kyoto Protocol is also a binding instrument – but as the US never ratified it, and only a limited number of countries have greenhouse gas reduction obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, it was important to elaborate a new, broader agreement taking into account all country’s needs.
The EU has anchored the commitments it agreed to under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol in EU wide legislation: the EU ETS and the EU Effort sharing Decision are two such pieces of legislation helping the EU and its Member States to fulfill its GHGs reduction obligations. The EU has also adopted regulation to address the issue of measuring and reporting of these reductions. Similarly the new 2030 commitment of at least -40% reductions of GHGs is being translated into updated legislation. The EU Commission has already proposed an update of the EU ETS, and further proposals will follow next year. In other words, for the EU implementing its international commitments is nothing new – it is part of the daily bread and butter of EU decision making.
EGP: What do you expect to find in Paris? A good point to build upon, a bad point to be aware of.
Carole Dieschbourg: The most important point to come out of Paris will be an agreement that encompasses all countries – that is really a step up from the Kyoto Protocol. We see also a lot of dynamics in the business and civil society sector engagement and clear progress in the field of the national reduction targets and the finance provided to support mitigation efforts as well as adaptation to climate change in the developing countries.
On the bad point: we as the EU would have wished for more ambitious national reduction targets. The ones we have amount currently to a 3-3.5°C global warming pathway – but we need to get to a 2°C pathway. That is also why it is so important that the new agreement contains review cycles to strengthen ambition over time as well as a long term target everybody commits to work towards.
We would also encourage all countries to adopt low GHG development strategies so they can plan the measures and policies needed well ahead of time, and invest into the right direction. As an example – urbanisation is advancing globally – we need to build our cities to take account of climate change – better energy efficient and RES powered housing, public transport instead of traffic jammed streets filled with pollutant producing cars.
We should be aware that Paris will be a starting point, creating momentum, on which we should build our actions, enact new policies and measures as well as keeping all the good local, regional and international existing initiatives up and running.
EGP: Some authoritative voices (UN's Christiana Figueres) declared last week (15/09) that current pledges are unlikely to keep global warming under 2°C. What comes after Paris, if the agreement fails on that?
Carole Dieschbourg: It is encouraging to see, that already over 100 countries worldwide have reduction commitments covering more than 70% of global emissions. This is much more than achieved under the Kyoto Agreement (ca. 14%). Paris needs to create the basis for being able to increase ambition steadily over time, and we need to make sure that countries indeed fulfill their commitment, that means building on the regular review cycles, on good monitoring, reporting and verification as well as making countries accountable in a way that helps them to fulfil their commitments.
We also need to make sure that the poorest and most vulnerable countries are supported to transition to economies that help their development needs in a sustainable climate compatible manner. And we have to make sure that the issue of adaptation to climate change impacts – and some of these are already unavoidable, unfortunately - gets the attention it merits.
EGP: You were received by Pope Francis last week (16/09). Can you give us a highlight from the meeting? How would you frame the Pope’s encyclical on the environment (“Laudato Sii”) in the context of the upcoming negotiations?
Carole Dieschbourg: The encyclical letter is a spiritual document, which has the merit to reach out much further than the Catholic Church. It has already stimulated conversations at religious, political and societal levels and has brought a new moral and emotional dimension to an often purely scientific and theoretical discussion. I do not agree with all its assumptions and question especially the position of the Catholic Church on the gender issue. But I fully share its basic idea: we will not solve the poverty crisis without solving the climate and environmental crisis. And we will not tackle major crises - such as migrations, wars and hunger - without restoring the dignity of the men and women in the respect of the planet that feeds us all.
The encyclical letter puts it very clearly: Climate change affects the most vulnerable countries in the first place. The sharing by climate of wealth and opportunities is unequal. With climate change countries and human beings drift apart. I strongly believe that the fight against climate change, which is also a fight against over overconsumption and inequality – has the potential to bring us together again.