Warming Europe Takes Lead Role in Climate Change Drama

STRASBOURG, France, November 17, 2004 (ENS) - Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) want the European Union to maintain its leading role in the upcoming climate negotiations. In a vote this morning, Parliament reminded EU negotiators that the European Environment Agency reports Europe is warming faster than the global average.

By adopting a resolution on climate change today, by 640 votes in favor, 22 against with 21 abstentions, the European lawmakers sent a strong message to the EU delegation attending the next round of climate talks that opens on December 6 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

At the 10th Conference of Parties (COP-10) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, they want Europe to lead the world away from a carbon intensive future.


The European Parliament at Strasbourg (Photo courtesy European Parliament)
Parliament believes that COP-10 constitutes a good opportunity not only to build on the decisions taken at previous Conferences on implementing the Kyoto Protocol, but also to start a wide-ranging debate on the main issues for the second commitment period.

The protocol is an agreement negotiated within the framework of the Convention on Climate Change that sets binding targets for the reduction of six greenhouse gases that trap the Sun's rays close to the planet.

At this stage, the protocol applies to 36 industrialized countries and is focused on the first commitment period, 2008 to 2012.

The legislators welcomed the recent decision of the Russian Federation to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, enabling it to enter into force 90 days after Russia's instrument of ratification is deposited at UN Headquarters in New York.

The resolution approved by parliament this morning calls on the countries that have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol to do so as soon as possible. The MEPs want the U.S. government, in particular, to reconsider its decision not to participate.

The MEPs urged the European member states and all other parties to the Convention to continue the discussions on incorporating emissions from international flights and shipping into the emission reduction targets of the second commitment period from 2012.

They want parties to specifically monitor transportation emissions and possibly develop their own protocol on such emissions.

MEPs said the EU should redouble its efforts to meet the Kyoto Protocol targets, and set an example for other parties to the Convention. EU member states must reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas, by eight percent below emissions in the baseline year of 1990.

The resolution especially stresses the importance of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources in this connection.

Members called on the European Commission, the executive branch of the European government, to assess legislative measures to support the production of energy from biomass.

They also urged the Commission to take immediate legal steps regarding the Member States which do not comply with the requirements of the Emissions Trading law.

Today, a press briefing organized by the European Commission in Uppsala, Sweden was focused on renewable energy research, particularly breakthroughs in photovoltaic and bioenergy technologies.


Louis Michel of Belgium is European Commissioner for Research. (Photo courtesy European Commission)
“The EU’s transport sector is 97 percent dependent on oil, most of which needs to be imported. We should therefore make every effort to develop new and renewable sources of energy to reduce our external energy dependence, while protecting our environment,” said Commissioner for Research, Louis Michel.

Rising oil prices, environmental challenges and legislative changes have created an urgent need to develop renewable energy alternatives to fossil fuels. ”Solutions have to be found to convert new research findings into cost effective alternatives suitable for everyday use," Michel said.

Biomass from wood, agricultural residues and organic waste are the only renewable energy sources able to provide liquid fuels for transport on a large scale, reporters were told.

Europe has vast resources of wood, agricultural residues and organic waste, which can be transformed in ethanol or produce hydrogen for fuel cells. Two projects on bio-energy technology were presented at the briefing.

The first, called Project TIME, has a research team from Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands working on converting biomass into ethanol using the cellulose of plants and trees as a replacement for gasoline.


Project TIME equipment that converts plant cellulose into ethanol (Photo courtesy Project TIME)
The idea of the project is that increased utilization of ethanol, produced from renewable raw materials, would lead to reduction of oil dependency and greenhouse gas emissions.

The second project is dubbed biomass to bio-electricity. A team of research institutes and fuel cell manufacturers, from France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK and Italy are working to convert biomass into hydrogen to produce electricity in a fuel cell.

Europeans view solar power as a rich resource. With new cheaper and more efficient thin film solar panels that can be integrated into roofs and buildings, the European Commission said today that in the long term "as much as 10 to 60 percent of electricity demand in countries like Germany, Spain, Italy, UK, The Netherlands or Sweden," can be covered.