The EU is betraying its climate policy

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of PLC.

The EU executive is staking every last bit of political capital on a 2030 energy policy gamble that could cost us the earth, argues Brook Riley.

Brook Riley is the campaigner for Friends of the Earth, an environmental pressure group.

You might not picture European Commission President José Manuel Barroso as a gambler, but on climate change he's the most reckless of them all.

This is the man who is pushing through a greenhouse gas reduction target of 40% by 2030 – this target gives us a 50/50 chance of exceeding 2°C of global warming and leaving a legacy of devastating climate change.

'Devastating' is how the Commission itself describes the consequences of going over 2°C.

And 50/50 is the odds you get if you cross reference data from the IPCC, the IEA and the Commission.

50/50 is a conservative estimate. According to Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, the odds are actually worse – about a 70% chance of exceeding 2°C. He told Barroso of the dangers in a personal letter.

Barroso himself is well aware of this. A few years back, he told the G8 that the EU had "set in stone its commitment to cap temperature increases at 2°C".

That was then.

What would people say if Airbus or Boeing knowingly designed a plane with a 50% chance of crashing and killing its passengers? How are senior policy-makers able to shirk responsibility on an issue as serious as climate risk? Why are Barroso and his fellow commissioners able to get away with proposing a climate target which so plainly ignores citizens interests and welfare? It's a dereliction of duty.

Of course, Commission decision-makers – Barroso, Hedegaard, Oettinger – won't admit any of this when they present their 2030 proposals. They'll say 40% is ambitious, that it's double the 20% by 2020 target.

They won't say the 20% target has already been met, and that if emissions cuts continue at current rates we could achieve at least 55% cuts by 2030 (yes, a target of 40% by 2030 actually equates to allowing emissions cuts to slow down).

They won't say their calculations are based on global emissions  peaking in 2015, when in fact we'll be lucky if they peak in 2020 – a difference of hundreds of billions of tons of carbon dioxide.

They won't say a 40% target will artificially cap investment in energy efficiency and renewables, and hamstring efforts to reduce oil and gas imports.

No, Barroso, Hedegaard and Oettinger won't admit any of this when they talk about their climate and energy plans for 2030 – but we need to know about it, be outraged by it, and insist on something better.