One of the lead authors of a key UN climate report launched on Friday (27 September) has told EURACTIV that Europe’s business competitiveness would be badly hit by global warming of the sort most scientists now believe is likely to arise this century.
“If you have change which is that large anywhere, and you’ve built infrastructure to cope with today’s climate, there will inevitably be implications of adaptation and mitigation,” said Peter Thorne, the lead author on attribution and observation for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
He added: “It is beyond doubt that if we want to avoid climate change exceeding two degrees Centigrade, we need policy-makers to implement mechanisms that ensure a large amount of carbon remains under the ground.”
A fuller assessment of the risks would be provided in an IPCC working group report due to be published next spring, he told EURACTIV from the conference in Stockholm.
The fifth assessment report of the IPCC, which brings together the world’s leading climate scientists, focused on the empirical evidence for human-made climate change.
It found that temperatures had warmed by 0.85 degrees since 1880 and that it was “extremely likely” – wording that indicates a certainty level above 95% – that humans had been the “dominant cause”.
But as they scan the document’s methodically-researched pages, EU leaders may find their attention slip as the claimed impact on European competitiveness of climate policies – and high energy prices in particular – has risen in profile as a political issue this year.
Last week, Markus Beyrer, the director of the employers’ confederation BusinessEurope told an EU Competitiveness Council that the bloc needed to phase out market support for renewable energy, and scale up its planned allocation of free carbon allowances to energy intensive industries.
A recent European Commission decision to reduce the allocation of free emissions credits “will add several hundred million euros to the already uncompetitive energy costs in Europe,” said a letter from Beyrer to the Council.
The EU believes that such measures are needed, to raise carbon prices which fell to record lows this year, so incentivising Europe’s use of cheap coal imported from the US – and increasing the bloc’s emissions.
But the IPCC generally takes a “policy neutral” position on political decision-making debates. In Stockholm, Rajendra Pachauri, the panel’s chairman would only tell a press conference that carbon pricing was “an extremely effective instrument”.
“In the ultimate analysis, it is only through the market that we might be able to make a large and rapid enough response [to climate change],” he said.