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Europe’s new climate gambit - shifting the heat onto developing nations?


Brussels, Belgium – European environment ministers, who today discussed Europe’s proposals for the Copenhagen climate summit in December, appear to be backtracking from a UN agreement by which developed countries take the lead on climate action.

The ministers, meeting as the EU Environment Council, call on developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15-30% from expected levels by 2020 – while the EU has set itself a 20% reduction target from 1990 levels, which should increase to 30% when the global deal is agreed.

Rather than strengthening their own targets, EU Ministers called upon a number of developing countries to consider taking on binding emissions caps. Other developing countries are also being asked to elaborate plans for low carbon development by 2012, but the EU Ministers have only pledged to provide support for the development of these plans to Least Developed Countries – rather than all developing countries.

“much take, little give”

“EU Ministers seem to be trying to exorcise the spirit of Bali, where industrialised countries agreed to take the lead in a global deal to keep climate change under control,” said Katherine Watts, International Climate Change Policy Advisor at WWF UK.

“The EU has long agreed to support developing countries to reduce their emissions, but today’s proposal is much take and little give.”

EU ministers acknowledged that global investment for climate change policies may amount to €175 billion per year in 2020, but have left it to EU Heads of State and Government to agree how it should be generated.

They have also failed to offer a concrete package to facilitate deployment of clean technologies in developing countries, placing excessive confidence in the markets’ ability to deliver. Adequate provision of finance and technology is necessary for a successful deal in Copenhagen.

“Europe is focusing excessively on the role of emissions trading,” said Watts. “Carbon markets are proving to be a useful tool but are not a silver bullet. Even here Europe sets a poor example with its reluctance to fully auction permits and back up trading with other instruments such as emissions performance standards.”

The world needs Europe

While the EU Environment Council proposals have to be approved later in March by EU Heads of State and Government, they fall surprisingly short of measures needed to fulfil Europe’s stated ambition to contribute to keeping global warming below the 2˚C threshold level for avoiding unacceptable risks of catastrophic climate change.

“The EU agreed its 2şC target in 1996, based on the then best available information about climate impacts. We now know that impacts are predicted at far lower temperatures than once was thought,” said Watts.

“The targets being proposed by the EU, despite being one of the better gambits on the table, show a worrying reality gap. With the window for avoiding the worst climate impacts beginning to close, the world needs a Europe ready to collaborate and do its fair share.”

WWF asks that Europe lift its proposed 2020 emissions cuts from 20% by 2020 from 1990 levels, a target further weakened by offsetting, to a 45% target. Two thirds of this should be in the EU itself, and the financial equivalent of the remainder being used to support developing countries’ actions.


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