No Change on the Climate Yet EU Can't Agree on Warming Targets

In the wake of a UN report last month about global warming, EU member states failed to agree on a Europe-wide goal to dramatically increase their use of green energy sources by 2020. Meanwhile, with time on the Kyoto protocol running out, a forum in Washington discusses the shape of things to come.


Almost everyone agrees the climate is changing. Few agree on what to do about it.
REUTERS

Almost everyone agrees the climate is changing. Few agree on what to do about it.

European Union states fell short of a key climate-change goal at an energy ministers' meeting in Brussels on Thursday, showing how much work there is to do before industrialized nations can agree on a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

More than 10 of the 27 EU member states, led by Sweden and Denmark, wanted to approve a proposal that 20 percent of Europe's energy use should derive from renewable sources like wind energy or biofuels by 2020. Some member states, like Germany, have already passed the 20-percent goal into law -- though Germany's current share of renewable energy consumption is about 7 percent.

But other member nations, like the UK and Poland, turned down the 20-percent goal amid confusion over the industrial reforms necessary within each nation. "A key worry is that once there's a target, everyone will have to deliver," said Christian Egenhofer of the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels, according to The New York Times. "Some of the industrial lobbies also are afraid."

The member states did approve requirements that biofuels should make up 10 percent of gasoline and diesel fuels for vehicles by 2020 -- but the binding 10-percent goal is "subject to … biofuel becoming commercially available."

"The longest journey begins with the first step," said German economy minister Michael Glos. "That is how we will have to progress here. We have made a breakthrough (today). We have adopted a draft energy plan."

Environmental activists were disappointed, though, and Frauke Thies of Greenpeace in Brussels said continued indecision at the EU level sent "the worst possible signal" for investors looking to risk money on young industries like biofuel.

Apparently unconcerned by the results in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday that her government's six-month term at the helm of the EU would focus on global warming. But she said Europe alone couldn't solve the problem, since it generates only 15 percent of global greenhouse gases.

"We must do two things," she told Germany's upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat. "On the one hand, we must be a forerunner ... On the other hand, we must find international agreements where the US and the big emerging markets become part of the (emission) reduction mechanisms."

An agreement just like that was signed in Washington on Thursday. Rich as well as developing countries got together at the so-called Global Legislators Organization for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE) forum and set out broad outlines for a replacement to the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012.

The delegates -- from G8 nations as well as China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa -- agreed that developing countries should face targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions alongside rich countries. They also backed the idea of a global market to cap and trade carbon dioxide emissions.

The group has no legal authority, but its recommendations will be sent to the meeting of G8 world leaders and can shape a "new Kyoto." US Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain, who are co-sponsoring a new piece of American climate legislation, turned up to signal a change in the US position on climate change.

"I am convinced that we have reached the tipping point and that the Congress of the United States will act, with the agreement of the administration," McCain told the delegates.

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