31 october 2008

Falling short of targets
By Jennifer Rankin, European Voice, 23.10.2008

Ministers agree on basis for Poznan´ negotiations; EU wants developing countries to cut emissions.

The EU will call on the fastest-growing developing countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020 compared to business as usual at the next round of international climate talks in Poznan´, Poland, in December.

A text agreed by environment ministers in Luxembourg on Monday (20 October) as the basis for the EU's negotiating position at the United Nations talks says: “Scientific research indicates that developing countries as a group, in particular the most advanced among them, would have to reduce their emissions by 15-30% below business-as-usual.”

The ministers suggest that developing countries could achieve these goals first by slowing the rate of growth in emissions and then reducing them.

This is the first time that the EU has spelt out exactly what it thinks developing countries should do to tackle climate change. The ministers' position means that China, currently the world's biggest polluter, could be asked to cut carbon emissions on the same scale as the EU does.

Differentiated responsibilities
The text refers to “common but differentiated responsibilities” between the developed and developing countries. December's negotiations will lead to hard bargaining about how to define those responsibilities.

In their statement, the environment ministers note that stopping deforestation, could make a major contribution to carbon cuts in developing countries. It also floats the possibility of EU money funding carbon capture and storage technology for coal-fired power plants.

But the text says that compulsory cuts are not expected from the least developed countries, such as many African countries and small island-states, as these “contribute very little to global greenhouse gas emissions”.

The environment council signalled, too, that aviation and shipping must be part of any future global deal on fighting against global warming. These sectors were excluded from the Kyoto Protocol on climate change because of the complexity of distributing their emissions between countries. But shipping and aviation are growing too quickly to be left out of a successor agreement.

Ministers failed, though, to reach agreement on more ambitious long-term carbon reduction goals. Currently EU member states want to reduce their carbon emissions by 60-80% by 2050 (with a global reduction of emissions of 50%). The ministers simply noted that the objective of limiting global warming to within 2°C would mean that developed countries would have to cut their emissions by 80-95% by 2050 and by 25-40% by 2020.

The EU has committed itself to cut emissions by 30% by 2020, but only if other countries join in. So even under the best-case scenario of an international agreement at the end of 2009 and a seamless step to the 30% target, the EU would still be doing less than the world's scientists believe it needs to.

>>> Back to list