21st Sep 2020

EU climate offer unchanged

European diplomats on Wednesday (27 January) decided to retain the EU offer of a 30 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions on 1990 levels by 2020 if other powers make comparable reductions in the hope that by holding to its previously committed level of ambition, it will regain its international climate change leadership.

The bloc will stick with its 20 percent reduction pledge but will neither make the leap to 30 percent unilaterally nor abandon the conditional offer, as some countries had favoured.

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The EU is to send a letter to the United Nations on Thursday notifying the body of its carbon reduction commitment.

By the end of January, rich countries were supposed to have inscribed their CO2 reduction targets in an annex to the Copenhagen Accord, the controversial document bashed out by a handful of powers in the Danish capital during last month's UN climate summit, while developing countries were not strictly bound by this date.

A number of member states, led by Italy and Poland argued against a maintenance of the upper offer, saying that the carbon reduction pledges of other powers, especially the United States, did not compare to what the EU had put on the table.

The US has promised to cut its emissions by 17 percent on 2005 levels. Using the same 1990 baseline as Europe and most other players, the American cut amounts to a three percent reduction.

They also argued that in the current economic climate, such a move would endanger domestic industry.

Likewise, European business leaders have favoured a shelving of the 30 percent offer.

In December, Business Europe - the lobby representing many of Europe's major industries and employers - said that offers on the table from other powers are not sufficient to warrant making the jump.

"The EU must not increase in any way its current unilateral 20 percent carbon reduction requirement," the business group said in an open letter to European leaders.

Other states, notably the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain and Germany, favoured sticking with the upper conditional pledge as a way to regain international leadership on the issue after the bloc was sidelined during the UN climate summit in Copenhagen last month. In the dying hours of the conference, the four leading emerging economies and the US met without the EU in the room to hammer out the three-page Copenhagen Accord.

In the end, the EU's emissions reduction offer is the same as it has been for the last year.

Belgium, which backs the 30 percent stance, at one point had suggested a half-way offer of 25 percent, but this was not embraced.

Scientists however say that aggregate global cuts of at least 40 percent are needed if the planet is to avoid catastrophic climate change.

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