EU leaders unconvincing at opening of Paris climate talks

30 November 2015

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has addressed the United Nations COP21 climate talks in Paris on behalf of the European Union.

The gathering of an unprecedented 147 world Heads of State marks the start of two weeks of climate talks which are expected to deliver a global agreement which should come into effect in 2020.

Susann Scherbarth, climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "The EU is not the climate leader President Juncker would have us think.

"Juncker boasted that the EU has already exceeded its emissions reduction target for 2020, then why has it come to Paris with such a low target of only 40% for 2030? The world's poorest and developing nations will rightly not be convinced by this level of action.

"It's true that citizens are already leading the energy transition, as Juncker said, but this is because Europe's governments are failing to get us off fossil fuels. The EU needs to put all its weight behind the energy transition.

"It is historic that so many world figures have come here today and talked about the severity of the climate crisis – but we will wait to be convinced by actions, not words.

"All over Europe and the world people have taken to the streets to call for the real solutions we need – and will carry on putting pressure on governments to shift our economies away from fossil fuels."

Commenting on the French President, Francois Hollande's opening speech, Florent Compain, President of Friends of the Earth France, said: "President Hollande stated that he wants an ambitious and equitable climate agreement. But how can France lead if it cannot reign in its polluters? Companies like Engie and EDF, in which the French state is a shareholder, still refuse to close their 46 dirty coal plants. This must change urgently, we need climate justice now."

Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland CEO Craig Bennett, said: “David Cameron’s grandstanding on the international stage is riven with hypocrisy because of the complete incompetence of his government on climate change at home. Future generations will pay a heavy price for this government’s economic and environmental short-sightedness and its fixation with fossil fuels.  It is to be hoped that other nations in Paris see the UK as irrelevant rather than taking their cue from the policies of David Cameron’s government. Empty rhetoric is not enough: we need tough and urgent action now.”

Friends of the Earth International – the world's largest grassroots environmental network – does not have high expectations for the outcome of the 'COP21' United Nations Paris Climate Summit. Its members will be present in Paris to call for a transformation of our energy system.

Friends of the Earth helped bring hundreds of thousands of people to peaceful gatherings in Paris, and around the world, over the weekend. Their optimism and ambition stands in stark contrast to the half measures pledged by many governments at the start of the 21st climate talks.

Today while Heads of States met at Le Bourget, Young Friends of the Earth Europe activists organised an action at Arc de Triomphe to call out the leaders of developed countries for failing to fulfil their historical responsibilities and climate justice even before the talks have started. 


Activists and experts are available to brief journalists on developments at the talks and to tell their personal stories and struggles, often from areas affected by climate injustice.

Details of Friends of the Earth Europe – and key member group – spokespeople can be found here.

Key events for Friends of the Earth during the summit are:
30th November – COP21 climate talks starts, with about 150 world Heads of State
3rd December - Pinocchio Climate Awards ceremony
5-6th December – People's Climate Summit in Montreuil, Paris showcasing low-carbon alternatives
7-11th December – Climate Action Zone - For five days, this hub of international creativity, which offers popular and contemporary programming, will be a central place for citizen's mobilization
7th December – FoE International side event on People, Rights and Justice
10th December – Paris gathering of global anti-fracking campaigners
11th December –COP21 conference is due to end and international; Friends of the Earth activists 'People.Power.Assembly' gathering with about 2,000 people
12th December – special 'Climate.Justice.Peace' event in the streets of Paris