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Brussels in brief, WW200911

Countries must have the confidence to crank up emissions pledges at Copenhagen

23.11.2009

Despite the widely-recognised urgency of the task, it now seems improbable that an ambitious agreement on climate change targets will be reached at the UN Copenhagen meeting in December. Little progress was made at the last two weeks of pre-Copenhagen negotiations in Barcelona in early November.


“The African group had to block discussions to get industrialised countries to seriously discuss commitments to specific emissions reductions, but the reductions proposed were mostly paltry. The industrialised countries need to step up their efforts”, says EWEA’s Regulatory Affairs Advisor Rémi Gruet, who attended the meetings.


Hovering over the discussions was the spectre of the US climate bill, key to unlocking US participation in a binding agreement. Without the US, other developed countries are unlikely to commit themselves to signing an emission reduction agreement. And this participation has never been as unlikely, as the US Senate has just pushed the bill to 2010.


On 15 November US President Barack Obama and leaders at the Asia Pacific summit further stamped out any remaining flickers of hope by giving their support to agree only a political deal, not a legally binding treaty, in December.


“UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer as well as the EU Swedish Presidency and now others are now openly discussing this alternative”, said Gruet. “This could involve reaching a political agreement in Copenhagen on key issues such as curbs on greenhouse gas emissions, with a deadline for agreeing a binding legal text such as June 2010 or COP16 in Mexico in December 2010.”


So far, the greenhouse gas reduction pledges that have been made by developed countries are low: reductions of between 11% and 18% from 1990 levels (US included). Such targets are miniscule compared to what is needed to avoid climate catastrophe, and the emissions avoided through projected wind energy installations alone will cover a substantial chunk of the proposed targets.


In fact, in its recently-published briefing for Ministers and MEPs for the run-up to Copenhagen, EWEA points out that wind energy should avoid the emission of 333 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2020. This is equivalent to 29% of the EU’s current greenhouse gas reduction target of 20% by 2020. On a global scale, projected installed wind capacity in 2020 will avoid CO2 emissions equivalent to 50% to 75% of the emission reduction pledges on the table, depending on whether developed countries choose the lower or higher range of pledges.

“The EU should go into Copenhagen confident that greenhouse gas emissions can be slashed rapidly, and that its own targets can be met and exceeded,” said Christian Kjaer, EWEA Chief Executive. “The growing pessimism on global action against climate change needs to be nipped in the bud. The targets can be achieved with currently available renewable energy technology and an increase in Europe’s energy efficiency. The wind energy industry is already delivering massive greenhouse gas emission reductions.

“Europe is still far ahead of a rather unambitious group of developed countries when it comes to commitments. However, if it takes the scientific evidence seriously, the EU should raise its ambition and aim for a 30% domestic carbon reduction target, with offsetting mechanisms like the Clean Development Mechanism adding a further 10%”, Kjaer added.

“A Treaty with ambitious legally binding commitments to reduce emissions  which goes beyond a simple political declaration, and takes into account the potential contribution of wind and other renewables, will be needed if we are to call Copenhagen a success”, concludes Gruet.

Read the EWEA briefing for the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen

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