EU says tackling climate change will cost global economy €400bn a year


TACKLING CLIMATE change will cost the global economy €400 billion a year, half of it in developing countries that would need substantial aid from richer nations, according to the latest EU estimates.

Arno Behrens, of the Centre for European Policy Studies, said the €400 billion figure included some €300 million for mitigation measures aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions and the rest in aid to help poorer countries adapt.

At a press briefing yesterday during the European Commission’s Green Week, Mr Behrens said the estimate was tied to the EU’s declared objective of keeping the rise in average global temperatures below two degrees.

However, he said the commission was “only at the beginning of taking full account of climate change” in its own development aid policies. It would need to find more innovative approaches to aid, such as tapping into the new Global Energy Fund.

Joy Grant, Belize ambassador to the EU, said the issue of funding for developing countries for both adaptation and mitigation needed to be resolved as quickly as possible because the level of aid would be crucial for the UN’s Copenhagen climate summit in December.

Karim Harris, deputy director of Climate Action Network (Can) Europe, said the EU “simply is not there yet” in terms of tabling a realistic aid package for developing countries. This could not be based on rich countries making “voluntary contributions” as this hadn’t worked in the past.

Can Europe has called on the incoming Swedish presidency to concentrate and focus the EU on climate change, with just 171 days left between July 1st and the Copenhagen summit.

“Lost time is not found again,” Pat Finnegan, of Can affiliate Grian, said.

Barry Dickson, of the UN Environment Programme’s climate change and biodiversity monitoring unit, said one of the objectives should be to make agriculture worldwide carbon-neutral by 2030 by reducing emissions and increasing its “carbon sink” potential.

Charis Omorphos, of the ministry of agriculture and water resources in Cyprus, said the drought on the sun-baked Mediterranean island was so severe last summer that the government had to import eight million cubic metres of drinking water from Greece. He said annual rainfall in Cyprus had shown a steep decline since the early 1970s as a result of climate change.

There had been a 20 per cent reduction in rainfall and a 40 per cent reduction in surface water run-off, causing prolonged droughts.

Apart from seeking to reduce the demand for water, he said the government had built three desalination plants to increase supply. As these plants consume 4 per cent of the electricity generated in Cyprus, alternative energy sources are now being examined.

Meanwhile, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) has strongly criticised EU environment ministers – meeting in Brussels yesterday – for “weakening even further” the Czech presidency’s compromise proposal to control industrial emissions.

“We are appalled by the minimalist approach taken by certain member states, led by the UK and Poland,” EEB spokesman Christian Schaible said.

“Shouldn’t environment ministers be more concerned about ensuring better health and environmental conditions?”

The main points of contention debated in the Environment Council yesterday were requirements for emission limits for existing large combustion plants and the flexibility sought by some to deviate from the emission levels achievable using the best available techniques.