Ambitious goals at Cop28 more important than ever, says senior EU official

Climate Commissioner Wopke Hoekstra says he is optimistic about a loss and damage fund for vulnerable countries

European Commissioner for Climate Action Wopke Hoekstra has called for more funding from the private and public sector. EPA
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Cop28

There will be no time to waste when the international community meets at Cop28 in Dubai next week to reach agreements on ambitious climate targets, the EU's Commissioner for Climate Action Wopke Hoekstra said on Friday.

“It is extremely difficult to come to an ambitious agreement, and yet more necessary than ever because the challenge ahead of us is tremendous,” Mr Hoekstra said in an online briefing.

“The window of opportunity is closing.”

Priorities at Cop28 for the newly appointed Dutch commissioner include a deal on tripling renewables this decade. Spearheaded by the EU, the US and the UAE, the plan has been backed by 60 countries and also includes the doubling of the rate of raising energy efficiency to 4 per cent a year until 2030, Reuters has reported.

These targets will require “significantly more money”, said Mr Hoekstra.

“I’m not talking about two or three times more ... but many factors more in the years to come. We need private sector money and we need a lot more public sector money.”

The EU's 27 member states are “taking responsibility” for solving the issue of climate change, he added.

“We are in position to contribute. We are together with a set of nations that do want to take responsibility, and not only for solving the problem at hand, but also as a trust building measure vis-a-vis all our partners across the globe,” said Mr Hoekstra.

The EU has said that it contributed €28.5 billion in climate finance from public sources in 2022 from public sources and another €11.9 billion of private finance. The bloc wants to become carbon neutral by 2050 and aims to bring down its carbon emissions by 57 per cent by 2030.

Developed countries say they have delivered this year on a commitment made in 2009 for $100 billion a year to help developing countries take climate action.

But vulnerable countries have been pushing for more financial support from the West. The EU currently is responsible for 7 per cent of the world's emissions but, along with the US, is responsible for most of the world's historic emissions.

A moral responsibility

Mr Hoekstra said this, combined with the fact that the EU is one of the world's most affluent regions, “creates responsibility”.

“I’m of the school that yes, the EU and other countries in the G7 do have to take responsibility here,” he said. “But that doesn’t provide anyone else who has the same affluence and trajectory of growth to find a way out to not contribute.”

Climate change may cost countries between $300 billion a year by 2030 and $500 billion by 2050, according to the UN.

During his meetings in the past weeks in Nairobi, Lusaka, Sao Paulo, Santiago and Brasilia, Mr Hoekstra's interlocutors have been asking for the EU to step up help, he said.

“They are asking the EU for two things: one is please push relentlessly on mitigation and please help us out by financing because you are in a position to do so. And it is that combination that I would like to deliver on,” he said.

Mitigation measures, which must also include ambitious targets in terms of reducing harmful methane emissions, are the only way to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, said Mr Hoekstra.

Cop28 will be the moment when countries will do their first global stocktake, or the study of how the world is measuring up to the goals of the 2015 Paris deal. It is a “pivotally important” time to do more for climate action, said the climate commissioner.

“It would be my ambition to make sure that we arrive at the whole world peaking in 2025, and then having the curb of course go down, rather than plateauing in 2025,” he said in response to a question from The National.

Loss and damage fund optimism

There has also been a lot of talk in the past year about a new loss and damage fund for developing countries that have been hit hard by climate change. Mr Hoekstra is focused on launching it at Cop28 despite disagreements on its structure and implementation.

“I am more optimistic about loss and damage than I was a number of weeks ago,” said Mr Hoekstra, who said he had been pushing for it “relentlessly” both in the EU and abroad.

“I'm a realist, but I do feel that we have the ability to deliver on that one.”

The private sector also has an important role to play in climate financing, said Mr Hoekstra, who was a consultant for McKinsey before entering Dutch politics.

“The good news here is that we no longer live in the situation of 20 years ago where doing the right stuff for the planet and chasing renewables was good on the one hand but extremely expensive on the other,” he said.

There is an economic opportunity for countries who are beginning to transition their economy from fossil fuels to renewables such as solar energy because they will “certainly [not] need to incur the same costs as some of the front runners did”, added Mr Hoekstra.

Carbon markets must also be bolstered, he said, in a similar way to the EU's Emissions Trading System, which forces companies to pay for each tonne of CO2 emitted.

At Cop28, climate envoys are expected to discuss rules for a new UN-overseen emissions market to allow for collaboration in fighting climate change.

“We must make sure that we get the whole world on the trajectory of carbon markets,” said Mr Hoekstra. “We need all these things and more.”

A former minister of foreign affairs in his native country, Mr Hoekstra said that he was fully aware of the urgency of climate change in part because he had lived below sea level for most of his life.

About a third of the Netherlands is below sea level and this figure is likely to grow as oceans rise due to melting ice sheets.

“I know from personal experience what this could mean,” said Mr Hoekstra, who claimed that he had also experienced the effects of sea-level rise from living in the Caribbean.

That is why measures that he is championing, including tripling renewables but also others such as taxing the aviation industry, are so important, he argued.

“We simply cannot be like at a restaurant and pick what we like most,” said Mr Hoekstra.

“We simply do not have that luxury. That might have been the case if we had started this journey 30 or 40 years earlier but we haven’t, and that is the reality we face.”

Updated: November 29, 2023, 12:02 PM