EU summit to back 95% emissions reduction goal

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Europe will attempt to reassert its global leadership on climate change during a two-day summit kicking off today in Brussels (29-30 October), with EU leaders set to back emissions reductions “of at least 80-95%” for the developed world by 2050, according to a draft statement obtained by EURACTIV.

The EU’s pledge comes as part of international negotiations on climate change to take place in Copenhagen next month but will only become effective if other developed nations follow suit.

“The European Union is at the forefront of efforts to fight climate change,” the draft summit statement reads. “It supports an EU objective […] to reduce emissions by 80-95% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.”

Last year, the European Union committed to reducing its emissions by 20% unilaterally by 2020, regardless of what other countries do. 

This week, EU leaders will reiterate their pledge to raise this target to 30% “provided that other developed countries commit themselves to comparable emissions reductions” and that emerging economies such as China and India “contribute adequately” according to their emissions levels and “capabilities”.

“The EU’s commitment to step up to the 30% target hinges entirely on other countries making comparable commitments,” an EU diplomat stressed before the summit meeting.

EU’s climate leadership a hoax?

However, the EU’s self-acclaimed leadership on climate change came under fire from Sandbag, a UK-based campaign group, which said the 2020 pledge was essentially a hoax. “Far from leading the world with ambitious reduction targets, the EU is hiding behind clever accounting and in fact pledging to do very little,” the group said.

According to Sandbag, this is because emissions cuts in Europe to date have mainly come from unrelated macro-economic circumstances, including post-communist de-industrialisation in Eastern Europe in the early 1990s. “Using a 1990 baseline for cutting emissions makes Europe’s effort look unfairly good compared to other parts of the world,” the group said.

“When considered in this context, the EU’s conditional offer of a 30% reduction by 2020 is in reality only a 10% reduction in domestic emissions from current levels. By 2010, we will have already achieved a 10% cut against 1990 and half of the remaining effort to meet the 20% target is likely to be met through purchasing permits from overseas, giving a domestic reduction of only 10% over a decade.”

Climate aid deadlock

In addition, EU leaders are expected to fall short of an agreement on finances to help developing nations switch to clean energy (EURACTIV 27/10/09).

“The primary political battleground is whether to release figures in advance of Copenhagen or not,” an EU diplomat said.

The European Commission has suggested that developed nations could contribute between €20-50 billion per year by 2020. The figure corresponds to the overall level of international public support and should be “subject to a fair burden sharing at the global level,” the EU summit conclusions read.

But some member states are calling for more specific commitments, with the UK saying the agreed range should be narrowed down to €30-40 bn, the EU diplomat said. Denmark and Netherlands also want clear concrete numbers.

At the other end of the scale, Germany is pushing strongly not to agree on specific numbers in advance of the Copenhagen meeting. Meanwhile, Poland and other Central and Eastern European countries are absolutely opposed to the EU putting a figure on the table without knowing first how the burden will be shared internally. Their concern is that they would end up paying more than they can afford (EURACTIV 21/10/09).

Sarkozy to the rescue?

Diplomats say they are now watching closely what the French position will be and whether they will side with the UK or Germany. “Sarkozy is viewed as a key player but it is currently unclear as to which direction he will veer,” the diplomat said.

The global community is currently engaged in negotiations to agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which expires in 2012.

The latest round of UN climate talks in Bangkok ended with little progress, leaving negotiators preparing for the Copenhagen summit in December on the assumption that not every detail will be agreed (EURACTIV 13/10/09).

Last year, the European Union committed to reducing its own emissions by 20% unilaterally by 2020, regardless of what other countries do.

The target would be raised to 30% in the event that other developed countries such as the US agree similar cuts and emerging economies such as China and India slash their own emissions by 15-30% below business-as-usual by the same date (EURACTIV 29/01/09).

  • 29-30 Oct.: EU summit in Brussels. 
  • 2-7 Nov.: UN negotiations in Barcelona. 
  • 7-18 Dec.: UN climate conference in Copenhagen.

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