Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Europe offers to cut emissions 95% by 2050 if deal reached at Copenhagen

EU sends 'clear message' to the world with ambitious target

Ian Traynor in Brussels,, Wednesday 21 October 2009

Europe attempted to reassert its international leadership in the fight against global warming today, offering to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 95% by 2050 and by 30% by 2020 if a climate change pact is sealed in Copenhagen in six weeks' time.

"This should be seen as a clear message to the world," said Andreas Carlgren, the Swedish environment minister who chaired the Luxembourg meeting. "We expect to reach an agreement in Copenhagen," he added, after environment ministers from 27 countries finalised a common EU negotiating position.

But his optimism contrasted with the increasing doubts around the world enough time remains to deliver a binding agreement in Copenhagen. The EU also still has to settle disputes over the EU's carbon trading scheme and how the developing world will be paid to cope with the impacts of global warming.

Yesterday, European finance ministers failed to agree on a funding package for developing countries, with Poland and other poorer eastern European countries unhappy at being asked to subsidise action in countries such as China and India whose economies are growing strongly. Poland is also leading the dissent on the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS).

The EU negotiating position offers to slash greenhouse gas emissions by between 80-95% by 2050 and to deepen cuts from 20 to 30% by 2020 if other world powers sign up for similar action. The ministers said they also reached accord on tough action on deforestation and agreed that aviation would have to cut its emissions by 10% by 2020 compared with 2005 levels and shipping by 20%.

However, reluctance from the big players – the US, China, and India – to unveil targets or specific figures for a climate change pact, the EU was divided over tactics ahead of the UN conference in Copenhagen in December.

Germany and Italy were reluctant to name a figure publicly so early, believing this could weaken the European bargaining position.

"I've heard arguments about tactics," said Stavros Dimas, the European commissioner for the environment. "But by telling the decision now, we encourage other countries to come with their proposals. We don't gain anything by not reaching a decision."

Britain, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands supported this view, believing that Europe had more to gain from playing pioneer and seizing the leadership in the run-up to Copenhagen.

"Environment ministers are determined that the EU maintains its leadership position on climate change in order to promote an ambitious deal at Copenhagen," said Ed Miliband, the UK energy and climate change secretary.

Carlgren said Warsaw's proposal for changes to the ETS, which Poland thinks unfairly penalises its coal-dependent economy, was "unacceptable" to many members. Dimas added that without a breakthrough, there could be a "collapse" of the ETS, which the Europeans see as the vanguard of a potential worldwide carbon cap-and-trade system.

Leaders will meet at a summit in Brussels next week to hammer out the finances package for the developing countries, expected to total €15bn a year from the EU.

Despite today's agreement, environmental campaigners denounced the EU accord as inadequate.

"The level of ambition demonstrated by environment ministers will not deliver a fair and just global climate agreement in Copenhagen," said Sonja Meister, climate campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth. "Europe must go much further than this and live up to its historical responsibilities by committing to cut emissions by 40% domestically by 2020."

The EU's position is not strong enough to unlock the stalled negotiations," said Greenpeace.

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