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COP21: Results and Implications for Pathways and Policies for Low Emissions European Societies

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - COP21 RIPPLES (COP21: Results and Implications for Pathways and Policies for Low Emissions European Societies)

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2020-01-31

The outcome of COP21 represented an important new strategic context for EU climate policy. Analysing the implications of this new global context required an interdisciplinary approach, combining analysis of the evolution of the international climate regime as well as of NDCs and their socio-economic implications. Such analysis is also urgent, given the timelines imposed by the Paris Agreement with a view to creating the conditions for the revision of NDC in 2020.

In light of this context, COP21 RIPPLES had four objectives:
1) Assessing the adequacy of the NDCs in light of the global temperature target of limiting warming to well below 2°C and 1.5°C.
2) Assessing the implications of NDCs and deeper mitigation pathways on other European socio-economic objectives.
3) Assessing the adequacy of the outcomes of COP21 from a governance-perspective, and the implications and opportunities emerging from ongoing UNFCCC negotiations.
4) Delivering policy recommendations for EU climate policy and climate diplomacy.

The project, which ended on 31/01/2020, contributed to clarify required actions and available pathways to meet the Paris Agreement mitigation goals, as well as strategies that can drive higher ambition – at national, EU and global levels, including from a governance perspective. In brief, the project has provided scientific input to better understand the nature of the current ambition gap and to feed political discussions at all relevant levels and across different dimensions on how to address it.
Two specific cross-cutting findings emerge from the vast evidence generated under the project across geographies and dimensions -technical, political, economic-. Firstly, country-driven 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. Secondly, the use of adequacy assessments to inform policy debates and track progress can play a key role. It would support policy design to address different inter-connected dimensions which is an inevitable requirement to successful implement the Paris Agreement. It would promote a more holistic appraisal of ambition compared to current debates and consideration of several markers of the adequacy of climate policies, including as part of the ongoing UNFCCC negotiations, and importantly, in the context of the upcoming Global Stock Take where countries are to me to collectively assess whether the world is on track. Based on a scientific assessment of the adequacy of the EU and global response to date, the project provides a framework to assess what the focus should be going forward if we want to keep the Paris Agreement long term goals within reach.

Specifically, for the EU, a key result is the scientific-based deliberation that increasing 2030 EU emissions commitment contributes to ensuring politically resilient decarbonisation pathways for Europe, in addition to the technical and economic arguments. 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. Adopting sectoral lenses, additional efforts are required to tackle the financial system to support its transformation and to make industrial & innovation policy central to the decarbonisation challenge.
COP21 RIPPLES provided an integrated energy system analysis, focused on overcoming the technological, financial, policy and governance-related barriers to accelerating climate action and further development of the international climate regime complex, which is key to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and meet the Paris Agreement goals. This required an interdisciplinary approach to research, which was one of the most important features of COP21 RIPPLES. The possibility to bring together leading scholars across several disciplines has been invaluable. Learning from each other’s differences and building a common story has been an exciting challenge. Echoing Gandhi’s words, “If you want to change the world, start with yourself first”, we have definitely contributed to change how science is done, and so, science-based decision-making. Through stakeholder engagement, the project has provided input into a number of important EU and international policy discussions. Policy-makers and policy influencers have been the main beneficiaries. The co-production efforts have targeted high-level representatives of different Directorates of the European Commission (Clima, Devco, Trade, Ener, Fisma), particularly with regards to the study of EU-level governance measures assessment to strengthen the domestic and the international agendas, as well as the country-level insights that unpack the heterogeneity considerations for an effective EU transition. Moreover, scientific publications and further joint work among Consortium partners will contribute to a long-lasting impact of the project on the way climate policy addresses the challenge ahead.

Besides interdisciplinarity, COP21 RIPPLES adopted a multilevel approach to the research to respond to the need to better understand national circumstances, policy strategies and transition pathways of individual EU Member States and key non-EU countries. Therefore, individual countries are to greatly benefit from the project too. First as a result of enhanced capacities at country-level. COP21 RIPPLES has invested in national scenario model-based development under a flexible framework where local researchers have been able to characterise their scenarios according to local priorities as opposite to respond to harmonised scenario inputs parametrisation. This should allow for local scientific community to be better equipped to timely respond to the national policy discussions in the context of the revision of the NDC and the development of national Long-Term Strategies. National policy-makers are also provided with a combination of qualitative and quantitative information about the implications of the EU transition on their energy security position or industrial competitiveness. They will also find the rationale for early investment to foster learning that reduces decarbonisation costs in the long term and offers economic opportunities associated to the development of new low carbon technologies and sectors. Country representatives can explore promising technologies across different regions and the assessment of past experiences to inform their national discussions on opportunities and constraints of the innovation system. A number of recommendations are also available to inform priority areas for NDC revisions and areas of work to support short term choices that are coherent with the long term climate and development objectives, including for instance, all-important inequalities considerations.