Stop the 2030 climate targets retreat – or face the consequences

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

If EU countries continue racing to the bottom in search of the lowest common denominator on 2030 climate and energy goals, it will be game over for EU climate action, writes Brook Riley.

Brook Riley is the climate and energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe

"No EU member state seems prepared to recommend more than a 40% target for 2030 domestic greenhouse gas reductions. This was the result of a meeting this Monday of the Green Growth Group of 'progressive' environment ministers.

The UK, which is the driving force behind the group, has won headlines with its call for a 50% EU target. But Secretary of State Ed Davey suggested at the meeting that the UK 50% proposal could actually be broken down into 40% domestic and 10% from international credits.

Given the known worthlessness of international credits, a.k.a. offsets – even coal projects in China qualify – this would mean the UK's real proposal is 40%. Factor in their opposition to binding targets for renewables and energy savings, and it becomes clear that the UK is no climate leader.

Nor are France or Denmark, which are both backing the 40% number. Germany has not yet taken an official position, but is informally supporting 40% as well.

This is really disastrous. Data from the UN, International Energy Agency and Commission show that a 40% by 2030 target means little better than a 50/50 chance of staying below 2°C of temperature rises. Why take such a risk with levels of global warming which scientists, economists and politicians all say must be avoided? Why is no country prepared to do what the situation demands?

Friends of the Earth believes that 60% is the minimum acceptable number for 2030, and this must include binding targets for energy savings and renewables to be sure that real emissions cuts are delivered.

Disconnect from the science is one problem. Another is that preparations for the UN climate summit in Paris in 2015 mean there is tremendous pressure to agree a common EU 2030 target for greenhouse gas cuts at the March European Council. And the difficulty of securing an agreement between 28 member states is encouraging a race to the bottom, with low ambition seen as the price of a common agreement.

This at least seems to be the Commission's view – that a bad agreement is better than no agreement. Don’t forget it was the Commission which first proposed the 40% number in its 2050 Roadmaps (in full knowledge that 40% was in line with the trajectory for an 80% cut in 2050, rather than the EU's more ambitious commitment of 80-95%). Barroso is no bold climate and energy legislator – he will only support tougher action on emissions and binding targets for energy savings and renewables if he thinks this is what member states want.

So unless the UK changes the domestic / offset ratio in its ‘50%’ proposal, or  other countries – Denmark, France or Germany – reconsider their own positions, the Commission will go ahead and recommend 40% in its forthcoming white paper on 2030 (scheduled for January). Member states will probably then agree on 40% in the Spring, with loopholes to placate Poland. And unless there is some kind of clause to review the 'ambition' at a future date, it will be game over for EU climate action. Is this really what the Commission and the 'progressives' want? Because if not they'd better act fast."

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