Europe

EU Welcomes New U.S. CO2-Reduction Plan


A new US bill on cutting CO2 emissions will help clinch a global deal in Copenhagen later this year, the European Commission said on Wednesday (1 April), while proposing to use money from CO2 cap-and-trade to finance Europe's response to climate change.

Democrat congressmen Henry Waxman and Ed Markey on Tuesday put forward a new legal initiative to cut US emissions by 20 percent by 2020 compared to 2005 levels, in a sign that the Obama administration plans to make good on election campaign promises on the environment.

The Waxman-Markey bill is less ambitious than the EU's existing promise to cut CO2 by 20 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

The EU and US initiatives come ahead of a UN conference in Copenhagen in December on global emissions targets after the current worldwide "Kyoto Protocol" deal expires in 2012.

"We welcome this. It's very encouraging," EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said on the draft US law. "It's not exactly what we have in the EU and what science is saying is necessary ...[but] this will send a very strong message to Copenhagen and facilitate an agreement."

A UN scientific panel in March updated predictions that on present trends global sea levels will rise by up to 59 cm by 2100, saying the increase could exceed 1 metre.

EU research indicates that the most climate change-vulnerable areas in the EU are in southern Europe, the Mediterranean basin, the Arctic region, the Alps, densely-populated floodplains, islands and coastal regions.

Extreme weather events are likely to cause crop failures as well as human tragedy. Unseasonal heatwaves are to impact the energy industry. Rural irrigation will need to be restructured. Lack of snow could see ski-related tourism collapse in Alpine areas.

Mr Dimas in a white paper on Wednesday unveiled commission proposals to find out more about how the EU needs to adapt to climate change in future.

The commission wants to set up a climate change adaptation "steering group" composed of EU and member state officials and create by 2012 a new database to co-ordinate member states' information on climate change-related risks.

The steering group will present its first report in spring 2010 in preparation for a "comprehensive" climate change adaptation strategy to kick in after 2013.

Brussels is yet to calculate how much it will cost to bail out climate-affected industries, renovate buildings and infrastructure and support new social schemes for people fleeing the worst effects of the coming changes.

Show me the money

A report by UK economist Lord Stern in 2006 indicated that investment in new buildings and infrastructure alone will cost the combined EU27 countries between €6 billion and €58 billion a year in the coming years.

"For the cost, we don't yet have the data," Mr Dimas said.

The white paper suggests that the bloc may in future need to launch EU-level insurance schemes for buildings or businesses located in flood-risk zones that the private insurance sector refuses to touch.

It also indicates that post-2013, up to 50 percent of EU states' income from the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)—the EU's CO2 cap-and-trade programme—will need to be channelled into climate adaptation measures.

"When we have a recession, the ETS reflects the economic circumstances and the installations covered pay a lower price. When there is an upturn, they pay more," he said on the ETS' capacity to generate climate change adaptation funding.

"I hope the recession will be gone in a few months or a year or so."

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