Obama and EU unite on climate change draft
US President Barack Obama and EU leaders meeting in Brussels this month are set to throw their combined weight behind tackling climate change, in a show of developed world solidarity on the need for a new global deal, leaked documents suggest.
The guarded, diplomatic language is likely to disappoint environmentalists calling for urgent, ambitious pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
"Sustainable economic growth will only be possible if we tackle climate change," a draft communiqué ahead of the EU-US summit on 26 March says. The text is subject to further negotiation between the European Union and the United States.
Both blocs are preparing new pledges on cutting emissions for the first quarter of 2015, ahead of a UN summit in Paris that is meant to agree a new global deal.
Its aim must be to limit any global average temperature increase to less than 2 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels "and should therefore include ambitious mitigation contributions, notably from the world's major economies and other significant emitters," the document says.
Brussels has sought to lead efforts to curb global warming with more ambitious carbon-cutting goals than any other bloc, but some of its member states, notably Poland, say there is no point in Europe taking the lead when it is responsible for little more than 10% of global emissions.
About 40% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the US, the world's second biggest emitter, and China, which tops the pollution table.
Earlier this month, the UN's climate chief, Christiana Figueres, said closer cooperation between Beijing and Washington could boost prospects for a UN deal in 2015.
European environmental campaigners say such a partnership could also marginalise Europe in the debate, and in the race to keep up with technological advances to decarbonise energy.
To prepare its negotiating stance ahead of the 2015 talks, the EU executive, in January proposed 2030 climate and energy goals, including a 40% carbon-cutting target. That compares with a 2020 goal to cut emissions by 20% from 1990 levels, which has almost been achieved.
By contrast, the US has said it will reduce carbon by 17% by 2020 compared with 2005, a fall of just 3.5% below 1990 levels.
Shortly before Obama's visit to Brussels, a summit of EU leaders on 20-21March, will debate 2030 climate and energy policy, but is not expected to reach a firm agreement, due to the blocking Polish vote.
A draft document this week said only that the European Union would submit its contribution at the latest by the first quarter of 2015, suggesting that the EU may not need to reach a political agreement until late this year.
Speaking on 13 March, the EU’s climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, said: "The sooner we have an overall signal, a political signal of what kind of ambition level we are heading for, the easier it will be to elaborate on the details."
The EU has set itself a legally binding goal for 2020 of reducing its CO2 emissions by 20% and increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix by the same amount, both measured against 1990 levels.
A target of a 20% increase in energy efficiency has also been set but it is not legally enforceable. The low carbon roadmap in March this year stated that if it were met, emissions cuts would automatically rise to 25%, five percentage points above the target.
In October 2009, EU leaders endorsed a long-term target of reducing collective developed country emissions by 80-95% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. This is in line with the recommendations of the UN's scientific arm - the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - for preventing catastrophic changes to the Earth's climate.
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- June 2014: EU Council will discuss energy and climate issues
- September 2014: UN climate change conference in Lima, Peru
- 2015: UNFCCC COP Summit in Paris to agree global climate treaty for 2020
- 2020: New glocal climate treaty planned to come into force
- 2020: Deadlne for EU to meet binding targets for 20% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, improvements in energy efficiency, and market share for renewable energy