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29th Feb 2024

EU unveils proposals for global climate change deal

  • The EU says it wants to to limit global warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures (Photo: Karin Beate Nøsterud /norden.org)

The EU on Wednesday (28 January) unveiled proposals for achieving a new international deal on climate change, but omitted funding commitments as member states struggle to contain the fall-out from the global financial crisis.

Brussels is calling for a commitment by rich countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020, with the overall goal to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.

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It is also asking developing countries, except the very poorest, to limit growth in their collective emissions to 15-30 percent below "business as usual" levels by 2020.

To achieve the targets, the EU, which sees itself as the world leader on environmental issues, suggests setting up a carbon market with rich countries by 2015, with poorer countries to be included five years later.

The EU itself already has an emissions trading system whereby industry is allocated pollution credits which they can buy and sell according to how much they pollute.

The European Commission estimates that the cost of achieving these goals will amount to €175 billion each year by 2020, with more than half of that required by the developing nations.

The plans are the EU's opening gambit ahead of global talks in December on setting new pollution-reducing targets from 2012, when the current Kyoto accord expires.

They still have to be approved by member states, who will discuss them at a summit in March - but money is set to be the key sticking point.

The point of no return

EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said the international talks in Copenhagen in December represent the "last chance" before the environmental damage wrought by climate change "passes the point of no return."

He also stressed that "the causes and impacts of climate change will require significant private and public investment over coming decades."

However, his proposals were revised before Wednesday's publication and specific funding commitments by rich countries to help developing countries to produce clean energy and adapt to climate change were removed.

The last minute changes come amid gloomy economic prospects for member states as they grapple with the effects of the global financial crisis, making it unlikely that leaders would commit to spending money on solutions to global warming.

NGOs and Green politicians have condemned the omission of concrete figures and said the EU's targets lack ambition.

"[The proposal] completely fails to specify how much money the EU and other rich countries will make available," said Elise Ford, head of Oxfam International's EU office.

"Unless developing countries see hard cash on the table, there is a real danger they will simply walk away."

Finnish Green MEP Satu Hassi said the plan "failed to recognise the level of financing that will be required by industrialised countries in the context of an international climate agreement."

The split between rich and poorer countries is at the heart of whether international talks on reducing pollution will be successful.

Developing countries, who are playing economic catch-up, feel they are being saddled with the poor environmental legacy left by industrialised countries and that they cannot be expected to make the same commitments as rich countries.

But rich countries, worried that their industry will be put at an economic disadvantage by having to adhere to stricter environmental standards, say that poorer countries must also make a meaningful contribution to fighting climate change.

For his part, Mr Dimas acknowledged the importance of the money question.

"Without a credible financial package, it's clear that there will be no deal in Copenhagen: no money, no deal," said the commissioner.

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