26th Oct 2016

Green groups unhappy with EU climate proposals

  • UN climate experts say crop yields are likely to drop due to climate change (Photo: Andrew Stawarz)

The European Commission’s latest climate proposals fall short of the mark say pro-green groups, following a UN report published on Monday (31 March) which warned of irreversible consequences of a warming planet.

The commission’s January proposals for the 2030 climate and energy package recommended a 40 percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction target.

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At the same time, the EU imposed a binding renewable energy target on itself, but not on member states.

“The quest is to find a way for member states to have enough flexibility but still for Europe to reach the targets it wants, we are convinced this is a good proposal,” said Humberto Delgado Rosa, a senior official in the commission’s climate department.

Asked how non-binding member state targets can meet a binding target at the EU level, Delgado Rosa said a governance system would allow national authorities to plan within their capacity and design their own energy mixes.

Meanwhile, the EU’s 40 percent target is based on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change data from 2007, which the climate panel is now updating.

The 2007 IPCC recommended that developed countries aim for 25 to 40 percent greenhouse gas cuts by the year 2020, leading to 80 to 95 percent cuts by 2050.

The commission took the low end of the two recommendations of 25 and 80 and came up with a 40 percent by 2030.

“It is based on the weak end of seven year old IPCC data, in other words, it’s disastrously weak,” said Brook Riley, a climate expert from the Brussels-based Friends of the Earth Europe.

Riley said the commission then ran a cost analysis of reducing emissions but neglected to calculate the benefits like savings on health care.

“You end up with a completely skewed analysis, you are only looking at one side of the coin,” he said.

Renewable industry also pundits complain the EU energy strategy for climate change is moving backwards.

Italy and France have cut subsidies for solar and wind power while Germany is set to impose a levy on self-generated solar electricity.

“It’s unbelievable. For years, the EU discussed climate goals and independence from energy imports but when it comes to concrete measures, they are actually moving backwards,” said Milan Nitzschke, president of EU Prosun, a lobby group for EU solar firms.

Climate change experts in Japan warned of irreversible consequences of a warming planet if nothing is done to slow down greenhouse gas emissions.

The conclusion is part of a larger 30-chapter report on climate change by IPCC, which says climate change is occurring on all continents and across oceans.

“It is very clear the more we warm the planet, the more the risks we face will be important and some of those risks might even be irreversible if warming gets beyond a certain value,” Jean-Pascal van Ypersel, IPCC vice-chair, told reporters in Brussels via video link from Yokohama, Japan.

Van Ypersel said one irreversible risk is the long-term melting of the Greenland ice sheets, which could be completely gone within a thousand years if global temperature increases between 1 to 4 degrees Celsius when compared to the pre-industrial value.

“If it melts the contribution of that ice sheet alone is an equivalent average sea level increase of six to seven metres,” said van Upersel.

More immediate risks narrow in on food security, with a decrease in global crop yields possibly dropping down to around 50 percent at the approach of the next century.

Yields for wheat and maize have already plummeted in the past decade, it notes.

“The risk to global food security are really profound,” said Chris Fields, co-chair of the IPCC panel behind the report.

Other impacts listed in the report include altered ecosystems, disruption of water supply, damage to infrastructure and settlements, and death.

It also notes that people can adapt and lessen the effects but within limits.

The document is the second in a series by the IPCC in the lead up to an overall assessment report due out in October.

The first report, published last September, looked at the science behind climate change. A third report on reducing risks is in the process of being finalised.

Drafted by more than 300 authors and drawing on the findings of some 12,000 mostly peer-reviewed publications, the second report is described as the most reviewed scientific document in the history of science.

It assessed the impact of climate change, future risks from a changing climate, and ways forward to reduce those risks.

It provides a map of where climate changes have occurred, what sectors have been affected, and the consequences behind those changes.

The report also looks at the oceans and notes that hundreds of marine species move some 400km per decade towards cooler waters as their environment warms.

“It’s time to wake up and bring action to the scale needed … I appeal to all major emitters to do the same urgently. It's time to get serious,” EU commissioner for climate Connie Hedegaard said of the IPCC report, in a statement.


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