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New Year marks uncertainty over green policy

2015 is set to be a vital year for the green economy, with policy uncertainty evident both domestically ahead of the General Election, and internationally in EU policy and UN climate negotiations.

2015 is set to be a vital year for the green economy, with policy uncertainty evident both domestically ahead of the General Election, and internationally in EU policy and UN climate negotiations. 

December 2014 was a turbulent month for international green policy, with the announcement that the European Commission’s draft circular economy policy package will be axed coinciding with UN climate talks in Lima that arguably failed to live up to expectations.

Lima

The aim of the negotiations in Lima was to draw up a draft framework for post-2020 global climate action that will ultimately be agreed by nations at the UN climate conference in Paris in December this year.

The Paris conference is expected to deliver the biggest global commitment on climate change since the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in 1997 and will expire in 2020.

Stalling negotiations 

Despite promising signs of international cooperation in the build up to Lima, including the EU confirming its 2030 targets and a joint declaration by the US and China to tackle emissions, the negotiations largely failed to maintain this early momentum.

Notably, parties agreed for the first time that both developed and developing countries should contribute to emissions reductions. 

However, a global agreement that is legally-binding looks increasingly unlikely and plans for each country to publish so-called ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ (INDCs) by March to outline how they will tackle emissions remain vague and open to interpretation.

In addition, the global collapse in oil prices over 2014 is also likely to affect ambitions to move away from a fossil fuel based economy. 

‘Key role’ for businesses

Nick Molho, executive director of the Aldersgate Group, a coalition of environmental trade bodies, argued that the negotiations “haven’t delivered as clear cut an outcome as many wished for and significant work remains to be done in 2015.

“Businesses have a key role to play in speaking louder, and in bigger numbers, in favour of a strong climate deal to add their full weight to the essential efforts of civil society and the world’s progressive governments,” he added.

UK leadership

Ed Davey, energy and climate secretary, said: “The talks were tough but the Lima Call for Climate Action shows a will and commitment to respond to the public demand to tackle climate change.

“The next 12 months will be critical and the UK’s leadership will be needed more than ever in the difficult negotiations ahead.”

However, the UK’s appetite for leading on climate change will be tested by this year’s General Election, with the major political parties already differing considerably on their plans for a green economy. 

European circular economy

At the European level, green economy advocates have been rocked by an announcement in December that the European Commission’s draft circular economy policy package will be axed as part of its work programme for 2015.

The proposed package was designed to increase resource efficiency across the EU by introducing 2030 waste reduction targets of 70 per cent for municipal waste and 80 per cent for packaging waste, as well as banning a range of materials from landfill from 2025. 

Uncertainty

Instead, the vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, announced that new plans to support a circular economy that extends “beyond the narrow focus on waste” would be put in place by the end of 2015.

However, the uncertainty over what this future package will entail was branded “not helpful” by Environmental Services Association (ESA) policy adviser, Roy Hathaway, who argued that it risked private sector investment in better resource management.