News in Brief, BB200706
US-EU summit and IPCC report call for ‘urgent’ climate action
On 30 April 2007, the European Union and the United States issued a joint statement on climate change and energy issues, in which they state that global warming is an “urgent priority”. Following this, on 4 May 2007, scientific experts and government delegates adopted the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel’s third report on Climate Change (IPCC), addressing a number of technically and economically feasible climate-change response options and recommending the use of renewable energies and a more efficient use of energy.
US-EU summit: divisions over global warming lead to a ‘weak’ joint statement
In the framework of the annual US-EU summits, German chancellor Angela Merkel and the European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, met the US president George Bush last April, with a view to further boosting the transatlantic relationship and debating key areas of cooperation, including climate change, energy security and foreign policy issues. This summit was originally seen as an opportunity for the EU and the United States to align their positions on climate change in the run up to the G8 meeting in June and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the end of the year. However, the leaders of the United States and the European Union were unable to agree on specific measures for reducing greenhouse gases, and the US continued to refuse to sign up to the EU goal of cutting greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020. Bush made it clear that he felt any agreement between the US and the EU on binding CO2 emissions reduction targets would have limited impact as long as other large emitters, such as China and India, were not included.
Nevertheless, the two sides did agree that ‘urgent, sustained global action’ was needed to combat global warming and committed to stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations. In a joint statement, the EU and the US also agreed to promote advanced coal technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, in order to:
- develop, deploy and commercialise renewable and alternative energy technologies; and
- promote energy efficiency.
This year, the EU and the United States will host a forum on climate and clean energy policy and measures in order to “better understand the effectiveness of the wide range of policy instruments.”
IPCC Working Group III report: climate change challenges can be tackled
The EU-US summit revealed the “differences of opinion” between EU and US leaders and the political difficulties associated with agreeing on concrete answers to climate change challenges. Just few days after the summit, when the IPCC Working Group III report was published, leading scientists and experts concluded that atmospheric greenhouse gas levels could be stabilised at safe levels and at a reasonable cost.
One of the report’s key findings is that “there is substantial economic potential for the mitigation of global greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decades.” Costs resulting from mitigation can be offset if, for example, “revenues from carbon taxes or auctioned permits under an emission trading system are used to promote low-carbon technologies or reform existing taxes.” The report states that mitigation will have a negative effect on countries’ GDP if it is not accompanied by the appropriate investment in infrastructure and technologies, as well as tax and market structure reforms. Tariffs and other economic mechanisms were also mentioned as a way of increasing the cost of fossil fuels and decreasing the cost of renewable energies.
If done correctly, the report claims that keeping the rise in global temperatures to 2°C would cost up to 3% of global GDP in 2030.
The IPCC report also emphasised that the tools for reducing greenhouse gas emissions already exist and many can be implemented rapidly. It called for greater use of renewable energies, such as wind, solar, and hydropower, as well as greater energy efficiency.
The Working Group III Report – Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change, constitutes the third and final part of the United Nations IPCC Assessment Report. The first report, issued on 2 February 2007, assessed the scientific aspects of climate change and concluded with near certainty (more than 90%) that human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, have been the cause of global warming over the last 50 years (See Brussels Briefing, March 2007). The second part, published on 6 April, focused on climate change impacts and showed that the world’s poorest people will be hit hardest by the effects of climate change (See Brussels Briefing, April 2007). The final synthesis report will be released on 16 November in Valencia, Spain.
2007 EU-US Summit
2007 EU-US Summit Statement: Energy Security, Efficiency and Climate Change
IPCC: Climate change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change