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27th Aug 2016

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CO2 reductions slip down EU priority list

EU climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard has said that achieving an agreement on reduced CO2 emissions at a United Nations' conference later this year is no longer a top EU priority.

Speaking at an event organised by the centre-right European Peoples Party on Tuesday (14 September), Ms Hedegaard said the US inability to act on emission targets meant the EU would focus instead on securing a number of other issues.

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  • The world's atmosphere is heating up as a result of rising C02 levels (Photo: Notat)

"I believe that targets will not be the main issue at [the UN meeting in] Cancun because the US failed to pass their environment legislation," the Danish commissioner told her audience.

Instead Ms Hedegaard's 'wish-list' for the meeting in Mexico (29 Nov - 10 Dec 2010) includes solidifying the world's commitment to a temperature rise of no more than two degrees centigrade and the conclusion of a comprehensive agreement to protect the globe's forests (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries, or Redd).

Redd is a UN scheme that would see wooded states such as Indonesia paid to prevent further deforestation.

Deforestation and forest degradation account for up to one-fifth of all greenhouse gases released by human activities, according to UN estimates.

Much of the environmental NGO community has spoken out against the scheme however, saying it is full of perverse incentives that channel funds towards business and result in the displacement of indigenous groups.

Other items on Ms Hedegaard's list of priorities for Cancun include the development of mechanisms to help states deal with the effects of climate change, while stressing the need for Europe to keep its top spot in the green technology sector.

In 2007 the EU invested twice China's level in energy-efficient technology, but in 2009 the levels were equal, warned the commissioner.

"China has 50 percent of the world solar power and wind market," she added. "We should be very, very cautious in Europe not to give away our frontrunner position."

European industry is keenly aware of the shift. "EU policy makers must work harder to provide the right framework conditions to stimulate innovation," Eurochambres director of EU affairs Ben Butters said in a statement after the speech.

But despite the fact that the world is still coming to terms with a summer peppered with natural disasters, others agree that a comprehensive deal, including CO2 emissions it unlikely to be achieved this year.

"It is probably not before the UN meeting in South Africa [Nov-Dec 2011] that an international agreement will be possible," the vice-chair of the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Jean-Pascal van Ypersele de Strihou, said at Tuesday's conference.

NGO reactions to the CO2 emissions news were negative, however.

"It is related to the US, but still displays a lack of ambition," climate change campaigner David Heller of the Friends of the Earth told this website.

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