EU Climate Policy Aims for Wider International Involvement

BRUSSELS, Belgium, February 10, 2005 (ENS) - The future of climate change control depends on broader international participation in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and regulation of the maritime transport, aviation and forestry sectors, the European Commission said in a communication adopted Wednesday.

The communication includes a set of proposals designed to structure the future climate negotiations of the EU with its global partners after 2012 when the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol ends.

These proposals open the door to bring major greenhouse gas emitters and also rapidly emerging economies on board. The communication suggests maritime transport and aviation as sectors that must be included in a post-2012 regime.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said, "Fighting climate change is not a matter of choice, but a matter of necessity. We will continue to lead by example, but we will also continue to pressure hard for all of our international partners to come on board."


Satellite images of Spain and Portugal showing the effect of the many forest fires of the hottest European summer on record. Top image was taken June 18, 2003 and the bottom image on September 15, 2003. (Photo courtesy ESA)
The EU's goal to limit global average temperature increases to a maximum of two degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level was agreed by the European Council of Ministers in 1996. Beyond a rise of two degrees, the risks to human societies and ecosystems increase and there is a risk of accelerated climate change.

"I am convinced," said Dimas, "that it is still possible to keep to our commitment of limiting temperature increases to a maximum of two degrees Celsius. What is more, our projections indicate that the costs associated with the post-2012 strategy as outlined today are manageable for our economies."

The Kyoto Protocol, which will enter into force on February 16, requires industrialized countries, including EU member states, to reduce their emissions of six greenhouse gases an average of 5.2 percent over 1990 baseline levels in the 2008 - 2012 commitment period.

Climate scientists agree the Earth's surface temperature is rising. The 2004 meteorological year was the fourth warmest year in the period of accurate instrumental data, since the late 1800s, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said in a report Tuesday. Globally, the warmest temperature occurred in 1998, while the second and third warmest years were 2002 and 2003, NASA data shows.

Despite "the chaotic aspect of climate," said the NASA report, "the increasing role of human-made climate forcing agents makes it possible to hazard predictions of likely global climate trends even on time scales as short as a few years or less."

"This is because of the recognition that the Earth is now out of energy balance, with more solar energy coming in than terrestrial heat radiation going out to space," NASA said.

"One result of this imbalance," according to the NASA report, "is that it makes it likely that global temperature in 2005, aided also by a weak El Nino, will exceed those of 2003 and 2004 and perhaps even the temperature of 1998, which had stood out far above the temperature of any year in the preceding century."

The Commission document underlines that the transition to a climate-friendly society offers economic opportunities for the EU, reinforcing its Lisbon agenda for economic growth.

The Commission stated this week that sustainable development is the general framework for the Lisbon strategy, saying, "The Commission proposes to refocus the Lisbon agenda on actions that promote jobs and growth in a manner that is fully consistent with the objective of sustainable development."


The European Commission would like to control the greenhouse gas emissions of the air transport industry. (Photo by Ian Britton courtesy FreeFoto)
In the Commission's climate change policy communication, proposals are made on how to develop increased energy efficiency and security of energy supply, including an increase in EU spending on research, and the development of new climate-friendly technologies for which demand is growing.

This Commission communication has been requested by EU heads of state and government, who will be discussing medium and longer term greenhouse gas reduction strategies, including targets, at the Spring Council in March.

Today, Europe's largest environmental coalition was invited to present its proposals on the environmental aspects of the Lisbon strategy to Prime-Minister Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, which is now in the rotating EU Presidency.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB), representing 143 nongovernmental organizations in 31 countries, offered 10 specific proposals to the Prime-Minister during a meeting in his office in Luxembourg.

John Hontelez, secretary general of the EEB, said the proposals, "on the one hand, ensure that the Lisbon agenda takes full account of the agreed EU commitments with regards to climate change, transport, biodiversity and chemical policy, and on the other hand, stimulate eco-innovation on a massive scale by creating demand for green products and services."

The EEB's proposal on climate change control states, "Underline that, in particular, the Lisbon process acknowledges EU commitments with regard to Kyoto-Protocol and its decisions on transport development (decoupling from economic growth) as positive challenges, which will promote innovative forms of economic activities and strengthen the competitiveness of the European industry and society."

Other EEB proposals recommend the launch of a "major green public procurement campaigns in each country," reform of subsidies that are incompatible with sustainable development, and the promotion of "environmental tax reform throughout the EU."

Prime-Minister Juncker is also patron to a conference the EEB is organizing on February 25 in Luxembourg, to discuss the environmental dimension of the Lisbon process with experts, government representatives, Members of the European Parliament and Commissioner Dimas.


Prime-Minister Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg (left) meets with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice (Photo courtesy Luxembourg Presidency)
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wound up the first overseas trip of her term in Luxembourg today where she met with Prime Minister Juncker and Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn. The meetings focused on the state of the transatlantic relationship, the upcoming visit of President George W. Bush to the European Institutions on February 22, the Middle East, the Western Balkans, and relations with Russia and Ukraine.

After the meeting, Asselborn said the transatlantic relationship "is today as strong as ever," despite disagreements over the war in Iraq, which Europe does not support.

Still, said, Asselborn, "the European Union is committed to working with our American partners in a very concrete way to address the challenges of this world. After the President’s visit to Brussels this month, the EU – US summit in June will be the next, very important moment in the transatlantic dialogue."

The Europeans have said that climate change control - one of the greatest challenges of this world - will be a top priority for the G8 meeting in June, which is being hosted by the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Tony Blair has stated his commitment to advance international climate change policy during Britain's G8 presidency.