Less than a month before a European Climate Conference in Nantes, one of the highlights of the French EU Council presidency, it is still unclear who will attend or what the conference’s objectives will be, with one official positioning the event as a “mini-COP”.
According to the French EU presidency website, “the event will aim to mobilise Europe to meet climate challenges and achieve the European Union’s more ambitious target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (at least 55% by 2030) and becoming climate neutral (by 2050 at the latest)”.
The website indicates the presence of “high-level representatives of EU member states, the European Commission and the European Parliament” as well as “personalities from civil society, the scientific community, companies and local authorities”.
High-level participants expected to attend include COP26 President Alok Sharma, Egyptian Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Framework (UNFCC) and representatives of the Czech Republic and Sweden – countries next in line to take over the EU Council presidency.
France, set to take over the rotating EU Council presidency for the first half of 2022, will have a strategic role to play in advancing the bloc’s climate ambitions in 2022. But with the presidential elections coming up in April, the cards could be reshuffled along the way. EURACTIV France reports.
A bridge between COPs
The only certainty at this stage is that the conference in Nantes on 7-8 March will be “conceived as a mini-COP”, according to what an expert from the French ecological transition ministry told a press conference on Monday (14 February).
The event was recently reclassified as a ministerial conference, although it is not clear which ministers have agreed to participate, the expert said.
Ecological Transition Minister Barbara Pompili insisted on it; the expert added, “because we considered that was an opportunity to use the political leadership of the EUFP [French EU presidency] to bridge the gap between two COPs”. The last UN climate conference was held in Glasgow, and the next is due in Sharm el-Sheikh.
Moreover, no major decisions or announcements are expected, the main goal being to gather goodwill and coordinate agendas.
The conference will host a succession of round tables and working sessions to address the issue of efforts to mitigate climate change and the issue of climate adaptation, including the role of cities and regions.
Some of the events during the conference will be “ministerial”, some will not, yet the order of events remains confusing from the outside.
Paris, which currently holds the six-month EU Council presidency, has highlighted the objective of achieving greater EU sovereignty on energy and environment as EU ministers dealing with these issues embark on a three-day informal meeting in Amiens.
In addition to this French presidency event, a Climate Chance Europe summit organised by the Climate Chance Association will occur on the same dates in Nantes.
This summit intends to be “in synergy with the European Climate Conference”, the organisers told a press conference on Monday.
Bringing together representatives of civil society – including associations, companies and local authorities – the summit will host nearly 300 high-level speakers, according to the organisers.
However, the event was not labelled as a “third-party event” by the French EU presidency, which casts doubt on its status.
The event will be dedicated to Europe, specifically to “the implementation of the Green Deal” and “the challenges of mitigating and adapting to climate change at the European level”.
“We need this dialogue between the European Commission, the member states and the community of actors who, on a daily basis, develop actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Ronan Dantec, the president of the Climate Chance Association and Senator for Loire-Atlantique, told the press conference.
The dialogue will occur during two plenary sessions shared between the European Climate Conference and the Climate Chance Summit.
The first will focus on the theme “From Glasgow to Sharm El-Sheikh, from the European Green Deal to territorial climate actions”, while the second will deal with fighting climate change and the just transition. Speakers will also be present at both events.
According to the summit’s organisers and the political adviser of France’s ecological transition ministry, having the two events simultaneously “is an opportunity for cross-fertilisation”.
However, the complementarity does not seem so obvious from the outside, whether concerning the speakers or the programme.