EU environment ministers to decide on sharing greenhouse gas ‘burden’

Next Tuesday’s environment council to discuss how to proceed and steps to take on implementing EU pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030

EU environment ministers are to begin the process of deciding how to ”share the burden” among member states of implementing Europe’s pledge to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030.

Roberto Binatti, representing the EU's Italian presidency, told a press briefing in Bonn yesterday that next Tuesday's Environment Council in Brussels "will have a discussion on how to proceed and what steps we need to take".

However, Elina Bardram, chief climate negotiator for the European Commission, declined to say whether the required "burden-sharing" deal was likely to be adopted before or after the crucial UN climate summit in Paris at the end of next year.

Amid mixed reaction to the EU climate and energy package agreed by Europe’s leaders early yesterday, Ms Bardram said she was “confident we will be in a very good position to start implementing this commitment in due course”.

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres hailed the package agreed in Brussels, saying the fact that the EU’s 28 countries could “reach a good compromise bodes well for the ability of all nations to come to an effective agreement next year.”

Others were not so impressed, with some branding the deal as a “betrayal” of EU leadership in climate negotiations. Mark Kenber, of the Climate Group, said a 40 per cent cut was “not enough to put the EU on a path to net zero emissions by mid-century”.

He also described the new targets for renewables and energy efficiency as “frankly disappointing”, saying Europe’s leaders had “set the bar too low” in both cases to convince businesses to move away from fossil fuels and switch to low-carbon pathways.

Jennifer Morgan, of the World Resources Institute, said Europe could reduce its carbon emissions by nearly 50 per cent by halving imports of natural gas (mainly from Russia) and investing more in renewables and energy efficiency. "This would be a win-win for the EU."

According to Marcus Ferdinand, senior analyst with Point Carbon, the package would channel some €35 billion towards eastern Europe over the next decade, and he said this was probably what prevented Poland from "acting on its threat to veto the entire deal".

Asad Rehman, of Friends of the Earth, said: “EU leaders can attempt to spin this backward step on climate as progress but it has effectively shut the door on the 2 degrees Celsius temperature target, with devastating consequences for the poorest countries.”

However Ms Bardram insisted that developing countries at the Bonn climate talks understood the EU's position, and she said there had been "quite a bit of convergence" this week, with "positive indcations" for the forthcoming UN climate summit in Lima, Peru.

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former environment editor