Commission to propose 30% EU emissions cut
By Anne Eckstein | Tuesday 27 April 2010
The European Commission is expected to propose increasing its offer to reduce the Union’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 from 20% to 30%. By announcing, on 26 April, to the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment (ENVI) that the executive would present a communication to this effect “before the Environment Council of 11 June and the European Council of 15-16 June,” Connie Hedegaard, the commissioner for climate action, indicated that this document would include a proposal in this direction as well as an analysis of the economic implications of such a decision. She specified that the decision “should not be taken immediately”. The communication could be adopted by the College of Commissioners on 26 May.
According to Hedegaard, the economic crisis has made it possible to reduce the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions without too much effort, more quickly than anticipated and at a lower cost. According to the Commission, this cost reduction is estimated to be in the region of one third compared with forecasts (approximately €70 billion by 2020) calculated for a 20% reduction at the time of adoption of the energy-climate change package, at the end of 2008. The increase to 30% is, therefore, “technically and economically possible,” said the commissioner, adding that “if we maintain the level of investment anticipated two years ago, we will exceed the 20% reduction rate”. Hedegaard nevertheless leaves little room for illusion and specifies that this move to 30% will not be painless.
The commissioner then presented her work programme for the coming months. Firstly, the adoption of regulatory measures necessary for the implementation of the ETS (Emission Trading Scheme) Directive, including: the regulation organising the auction of quotas, the regulation relating to the allocation of free quotas for so-called ‘sensitive’ sectors and the regulation establishing the emissions ceiling for 2013. Next, the Commission will present a new, “major” initiative aimed at transforming the European economy into a low-carbon economy, ie achieving the target of reducing emissions by 80% to 95% compared with 1990 by the end of 2050. Lastly, for 2011, the Commission is preparing a strategy aimed at integrating climate change alleviation and adaptation measures into other Community policies and financial instruments. This strategy logically fits into the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy, it says. In this context, it underlines, by way of example, that the decarbonisation of transport is essential because, according to forecasts, this sector should grow by 30% during this period. Moreover, this is the central theme of the white paper on transport, due in 2010, which will aim to make this sector more modern, more efficient and more ecological.
Turning from the 2020 plan and its strategies for recovery based on the technological development set up in Europe and elsewhere to the international debate, Hedegaard delivered a warning to deputies: “Make no mistake about our competitors,” she said, “they are not inactive and the results displayed by the United States, China and South Korea are impressive”. She cited the amounts invested in technological R&D: US$230 billion in China, US$80 billion in the United States compared with €25 billion for the EU. “We need to build on our current policies to drive our innovation and leadership forward in order to become the most climate friendly region in the world,” insisted the commissioner.
Moving on to tackle international negotiations, Hedegaard recalled that, upon the request of Commission President José Manuel Barroso, she is meeting the parties: after the United States, Mexico and the Maldives, she will continue her tour in China (this week), followed by Ethiopia, the African countries and Bangladesh. She believes that the progressive approach advocated by the Commission in March “appears to be well appreciated” and that “we must not give up hope on Cancun, although much remains to be done”. “All that we can conclude must be binding,” stressed the commissioner, insisting that “we are not the ones posing the problem, we did not reject Kyoto”. Hedegaard calls on negotiators to remain practical and to focus on concrete measures that can be agreed on and to leave legal questions, such as the status of the agreement, until later.
Hedegaard did not say a word, during this introduction, about aid for developing countries: a “gap,” which MEPs did not fail to point out, beginning with Jo Leinen (S&D, Germany), chair of the ENVI committee. “The EU has committed to €7.2 billion from 2010 to 2012. When and how will these funds be freed up? The clock is ticking - what is the Commission’s plan? The EU’s credibility with regard to developing countries is at stake between now and Cancun.” “The EU has made great efforts and promises of rapid aid. How will this aid materialise,” queried Richard Seeber (EPP, Austria). “What is the Commission doing to ensure that this money is quickly freed up,” asked Satu Hassi (Greens-EFA, Finland).
“It is absolutely essential for me - and for the credibility of the EU and all industrialised countries - that the commitments made in Copenhagen are immediately realised,” replied Hedegaard. The commissioner acknowledged that one of the difficulties is to guarantee that it will, in fact, be a question of additional money and not of recycling traditional aid. This issue is a major political challenge for developing countries: “imagine, on the contrary, the political effect this would have on developing countries”.
During this debate, deputies also expressed their concerns regarding the implementation of the ETS Directive, the real cost of shifting to 30% and the discussion which is opening (co-decision, first reading) on the draft regulation on emissions from light commercial vehicles.
The increase from 20% to 30% is “technically and economically possible”