The European Commission’s draft blueprint for tackling climate change, announced January 23rd, is praised in today’s Nature editorial for hitting “the sweet spot” between politically pragmatic but shortsighted proposals and implausably idealistic ones. Other groups – idealists and pragmatists alike – have reacted differently.
Some green NGOs are saying that the ‘2020’ plan – which aims for Europe’s carbon emissions to fall to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, with 20% of all energy coming from renewables (and 10% of transport fuel from biofuels) – falls short of stopping dangerous climate change. Friends of the Earth UK director Tony Juniper called the 20% reduction target “far weaker than the one agreed at last month’s UN climate summit in Bali,” adding, “Scientists warn that a cut of at least 30% is required to prevent a climatic catastrophe.” (In Bali, the EU pushed reductions of 25-40% below 1990 levels, though the US succeeded in removing that specific target from the final agreement.)
Even though the European Commission’s scheme will automatically raise emissions cuts to 30% if a global deal is reached (Guardian), Caroline Lucas, Green MEP for southeast England, described the tentative 20% target as “negatively prejudging the outcome of international climate negotiations and sending the wrong signal to the rest of world”.
On the other hand, Council of British Industry head Richard Lambert finds the targets “unrealistic”. The EU wants the UK to increase its renewable energy quotient from under 2% to 15% by 2020, which “can be done but it will cost a hell of a lot of money,” he said.
And the Danish prime minister joined the US in warning the EU against trade protectionism in the name of the planet. Import tariffs have been suggested to keep European products competitive with those from more climate-lenient countries, but that move could trigger a trade war.
EU government leaders largely welcomed the 2020 plan, however, and the IPCC’s Rajendra Pachauri summed it up best by calling the proposal “a work in progress”. Finally, there’s one group that doesn’t have to swallow a compromise in the proposed targets: carbon traders. Both emissions traders and the Carbon Trust were enthusiastic about the plan’s likely effects on carbon prices.
Image: European Commission president Jose Barroso, courtesy of Open Democracy.