EU climate policy project COP21: RIPPLES presents 6 key findings

In December 2016, the Horizon 2020 project “COP21: Results, Implications, Pathways and Policies for Low-Emissions European Societies (COP21-RIPPLES)” officially started. The project was running for three years, until November 2019 and it was coordinated by the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) in Paris. The project aimed to provide interdisciplinary analysis of the conditions of EU climate policy in the strategic context of the Paris climate change agreement concluded in 2015.

The VUB’s Institute for European Studies (IES) was among 17 leading universities and institutes that joined forces to produce climate policy guidelines and the IES was one of the main partners of the project. Under the lead of Prof. Sebastian Oberthür, and with valuable contributions of IES Project researchers Tomas Wyns and Gauri Khandekar, the IES cluster on Environment and Sustainable Development was in particular co-coordinating Work Package 4 of the project that assesses the adequacy of the Paris outcomes for effective international climate governance and the EU’s role.

As the Project comes to an end, project members published the key messages to contribute to evidence-based decision making.


Project findings

Take a sectoral approach

Sectoral approaches facilitate the understanding of the drivers of transformation and the appraisal of policy options, open the door for discussions framed in terms of economic and social progress and are a pre-requisite for international governance to be strengthened.

Benefit from early action and investments

Early investment to foster learning reduces decarbonisation costs in the long term and offers economic opportunities for countries to develop new low carbon technologies and sectors. Countries should concentrate on promising technologies, exploit individual regional strength and bear in mind the opportunities and constraints of the national innovation system.

Tackle the financial system to support its transformation

Current policy approaches to accelerate the pace and increase the ambition of the transformation of the financial system should be challenged as to fix its incapacity to deal with common goods and embrace long-termism. Finance cannot limit itself to growing green niches and must stop investing in carbon intensive assets. 

Make industrial & innovation policy central to the challenge

Industrial transformation is at the heart of the decarbonization challenge, and must be addressed with a coherent and ambitious industrial policy and innovation strategy. A transnational steel sector decarbonisation club could help advance domestic decarbonization and be an ideal testbed to pilot the introduction of border carbon adjustments.

Adopt a country-driven approach to EU 2030 climate commitment enhancement

Improve 2030 commitment to ensure politically resilient decarbonisation pathways.  Increasing pre-2030 ambition leads to a smoother, more realistic transition, avoiding asking comparatively more of a specific sector, which may increase acceptability problems. For this Member States need to be equipped to define their own role in the EU long-term transformation towards neutrality to inform coherent EU-level investments, cooperation strategies and solidarity mechanisms.

Use adequacy assessments to inform policy debates and track progress

Successful implementation of the Paris Agreement inevitably requires addressing different inter-connected dimensions: governance, economic and social, sectoral & physical transformations and GHG emissions.

A multidimensional framework to assess the adequacy of global and country-level responses can play a key role in tracking progress and identifying avenues for international cooperation, given the dynamic and interactive nature of the ambition ratchet-up mechanism of the Paris Agreement. The EU should apply this framework in its policy process to accelerate climate action in context of the EU Green Deal.

More information about the project can be found on: https://www.cop21ripples.eu/

The IES has an Advanced Master in European Integration programme, an evening programme in Brussels in which students can specialise in two EU policy areas, one of them being European Environmental Governance.