Recession should enable 30% emissions cut - WWF


THE GLOBAL recession will make it easier than anyone thought even a year ago for the European Union to achieve a 30 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, according to a Brussels-based climate policy expert.

The EU’s current target is a 20 per cent reduction.

Jason Anderson, head of climate and energy policy with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said yesterday the higher target would also be more in line with what scientists on the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say is needed to avoid dangerous global warming.

“The challenge is how quickly we can move,” he told a press briefing.

The EU also needed to ensure that the targets it had set are achieved by domestic cuts, rather than “offsets” through action taken abroad. “This is the equivalent of bailing water from the front to the back of a boat,” he said.

The boat analogy had just been used by Wang Yi, of the Chinese Academy of Scientists. “We’re all in one boat, but in different cabins. Those in first class should take the lead,” he said, referring to the developed countries of the world, notably the US and EU member states.

German Christian Democrat MEP Peter Liese said the 20 per cent cut unilaterally offered by the EU in advance of the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen next December was “still the most ambitious plan on the table” though it did not go far enough, he said.

Rosário Bento Pais, deputy head of the European Commission’s climate change unit, criticised other countries which wanted the EU to do more “without doing anything themselves” – though she added that she didn’t want to be unfair to China.

Giles Merritt, secretary general of the Friends of Europe, said after a two-day conference on The EU, US and China: Shared or Competing Interests?that the big question was whether the EU “can still claim to be in the driving seat in the run-up to Copenhagen”.

Referring to the developing relationship between Washington and Beijing and their recent round of high-level talks on climate change, he said this was in danger of “eclipsing” the leadership role of the EU, which had become “a bit wet” on this issue.

Talia Smith, an American climate specialist at the Carnegie Endowment, said the EU’s declared objective to cap the rise in average global temperatures at two degrees was “probably not going to be reachable without the US and China participating”.

Mr Anderson said the recent Major Economies Forum in Mexico, showed that other countries were “converging around” this two-degree limit, which could only be achieved by making deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions in line with the IPCC’s 2007 assessment.

Dr Malte Meinhausen, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Research, said it was “absolutely necessary” that global emissions peaked soon, between 2015 and 2025 at the latest, if there was to be any chance of limiting global warming at two degrees.

Stressing the importance of long-term investment decisions, he said new coal-fired power stations could have a life of up to 70 years – and measures would need to be taken to “capture” their carbon dioxide emissions over time.

Prof Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, vice-chairman of the IPCC, agreed that politicians worldwide were currently focused on the economy and how to lift it. But he said it was up to them to decide whether to “build more motorways or better insulate people’s homes”.