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EU pulls up shy of bold climate emissions targets

08 March 2011, 20:48 CET
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EU pulls up shy of bold climate emissions targets


(STRASBOURG) - The European Commission on Tuesday set out recommendations for EU states to radically slash CO2 emissions by 2050, but avoided upsetting governments or industry with precise targets.

Climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard and energy colleague Guenther Oettinger laid out their "roadmap" to 2050, but stressed that its success or otherwise will depend in large part on major improvements on failed energy efficiency targets.

"Any further EU climate action must be conditional on equivalent action from our main trading partners," said European employers federation, Business Europe, adding that for industry still recovering from the economic crisis, "it is essential not to disrupt the EU climate and energy policy framework already in place for 2020."

Governments are reluctant to make such commitments at a time when the worldwide race for economic recovery means every competitive inch is guarded jealously.

However, Friends of the Earth campaigner Mike Childs slammed the European Union for having "lost its way when it comes to showing global leadership on climate change."

He said the lack of concrete targets meant European governments are "locking us into catastrophic climate change."

The European Union is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by between 80 and 95 percent from 1999 levels come by the middle of the century, in a bid to maintain global warming within a two degrees Celsius threshold deemed attainable and safe by governments.

Three targets have already been agreed for 2020: cutting emissions by 20 percent; having 20 percent of energy consumption coming from renewable sources by that date; and implementing energy efficiency savings of 20 percent as well.

But the third objective is not binding -- and is in any case far from being achieved.

Hedegaard said the EU will fail even to hit 10 percent efficiency savings if new measures are not taken.

Oettinger warned that if improvements were not marked in the next two years, "it will be necessary to set binding objectives for the period from 2014 to 2020."

Hedegaard initially fought for a 25 percent reduction of emissions by 2020 to be binding, but that call failed to secure the full backing of the commission.

In trying to pilot proposals through a crippling dependency on oil and gas imports, deep social instability in north Africa and potentially the Middle East as well as public suspicion of leaders' number one 'clean energy' preference, namely nuclear power, Denmark's Hedegaard has one of the hardest tasks in Brussels politics.

Her plans are expected to cost an estimated 270 billion euros (380 billion dollars) per year if the historic switch-over is to become a reality -- and the budget can hardly be expected to come down.

Roadmap for moving to a low carbon 
economy in 2050 - guide
European Energy Efficiency Plan - guide

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