Last year’s Conference of Presidents (COP21) meeting provided an important impetus for enhanced action to tackle climate change. The adoption of the Paris Agreement was clearly the political milestone of the transition to a low-carbon development.
But keeping the global temperature rise to below two degrees Centigrade, the target set by the agreement, requires coordinated action that cannot rely solely on nationally-determined contributions.
Multilateral organisations have to seize the political momentum provided by the Paris Agreement to build their own climate action. The COP22 in Marrakech, which starts today, will be to formulate these multilateral actions.
Morocco’s geographical position and proactive policies in this field – along with the importance of the Mediterranean climate change “hotspot” – means a favourable environment for enhanced and coordinated action by the Euro-Mediterranean region at COP22.
The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) brings together 43 countries – the 28 EU member states and 15 southern and eastern Mediterranean countries. It is a key player in overseeing the unprecedented challenges facing the region, of which climate change is a major one.
Since 1990, the average greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of UfM members have been stable, at +0.05%. This is a good sign, as during the same period, the GDP of the region has more than doubled. Countries on both sides of Mediterranean are making huge efforts: their carbon intensity – the amount of GHG emitted per unit of GDP – has decreased in approximately the same order of magnitude: down 54 percent for non-EU southern and eastern Mediterranean states, and down 64 percent for the EU.
But by strengthening regional cooperation, UfM member states could improve the efficiency of their climate policies. After all, they are collectively responsible for implementing the Paris Agreement across the region.
Let’s consider two key sectors for the transition to a low-carbon economy: energy and trade.
The Mediterranean has exceptional weather conditions for renewable energy. Solar radiation and wind speeds are among the greatest in the world. Hydroelectricity is widely used. EU gas and electricity interconnections are with its neighbours, not with countries further afield. Having a more integrated energy market across the Euro-Mediterranean region would not only lower the cost of the EU’s energy transition, but also make it more efficient.
In 2014, southern and eastern Mediterranean countries had a €49bn trade deficit with the EU, making them the second-largest contributor to the EU’s trade surplus after the United States (at €103bn). Considering that there is already a significantly integrated market in areas such as motor vehicles, there are clear mutual benefits on both sides of the Mediterranean to consider the development of low-carbon transport at a Euro-Mediterranean level.
It is clear that Euro-Mediterranean cooperation on climate change has to be further enhanced. Today, with ten regional climate-related projects labelled by the 43 UfM members, accounting for more than €2.6bn, the Union for the Mediterranean is an important actor in enhancing climate action in the Euro-Mediterranean region, with a particular focus on the southern and eastern Mediterranean shores.
With the support of its co-presidencies, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the European Union, the Union for the Mediterranean is setting an ambitious, action-oriented climate agenda for the region.
Achieving the Paris Agreement target will be challenging. But through cooperation, dialogue and mutual support, the Euro-Mediterranean region is ready to engage to build a solution for the region and look towards a broader geographical scope, including the whole African continent. Marrakech will be the start of that important work.
IMAGE CREDIT: CC / FLICKR – Niels Broekzitter