Europe should forget about emissions cuts, say policy experts

| 11th March 2010
Smoke from industry
Emissions reductions of as much as 40 per cent must be achieved by 2020 to prevent runaway climate change

Actions rather than commitments are needed now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, says the study

Study says neither China, India or US likely to accept legally binding cuts and that new approach is needed on reducing greenhouse gas emissions
 

A global deal on tackling climate change is only likely if Europe and the US drop their push for legally binding emission cuts, says a report by former UN climate negotiator Nigel Purvis and Andrew Stevenson from the thinktank Resources for the Future.

China and India have recently added their names to those endorsing - but not supporting - the Copenhagen Accord, the last-minute agreement put forward by US which says countries will work towards limiting temperature rises to below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels but includes no legal obligation or timetable.

China and US

Despite this move, Purvis and Stevenson's study says China will continue to oppose any 'top-down international agreement' because of the government's desire to maintain order and control.

In addition, the authors said that the US was an 'unreliable partner', which may commit to a deal but is unlikely to actually cut emissions.

'The sad truth is this: despite years of effort by civil society groups and European governments, and the 2009 transfer of power to more climate-friendly policymakers in the White House and Congress, the United States has been unable to agree on a national climate policy.

'What US diplomats say in places like Copenhagen matters, but what the Obama administration and Congress do on energy and climate legislation is much more critical,' concludes the study.

New strategy

The study,'Re-thinking Climate Diplomacy: New ideas for transatlantic cooperation post-Copenhagen' recommends that Europe drops its strategy of emission cuts and works towards a number of key action points, which include:

  • Increasing demand for clean energy technologies
  • Securing funding for less industrialised countries for clean growth
  • Phasing out fossil fuel fuel subsidies, which amounted to $45 billion in EU in 2001 and $72 billion in US between 2002-2008.


Who wants what? Major countries' negotiating positions

China, India, South Africa Not willing to subject actions to a strong regime under any circumstances; not willing to negotiate its own mitigation actions internationally; not particularly concerned about making its level of mitigation consistent with a 50 per cent reduction in global emissions by 2050
Brazil Negotiating position the same as China, India, and South Africa (albeit less strenuously opposed to strong regime); domestic emission reduction goals consistent with 50 per cent reduction in global emissions by 2050
Korea, Mexico, Indonesia Willing to subject actions to international measurement, reporting and verification; targets stronger than some other major economies but not internationally negotiated
European Union Willing to accept strong regime, possibly unilaterally, and it is very important to their negotiating position; willing to change mitigation target to a relatively strong level of ambition on the basis of international negotiations
United States, Canada, Russia Willing to accept strong regime, but only if all other major economies are bound by it, too; relatively weak conditional 2020 targets; not willing to increase 2020 mitigation based on international negotiations; willing to accept global goal of 50 per cent emission reductions by 2050 with stronger mitigation by their economies
Japan Willing to accept strong regime but only if all other major economies do as well; securing a strong regime does not appear to be a priority; willing to increase 2020 mitigation to an ambitious level based on international negotiations
Australia Willing to accept strong regime, but only if all other major economies are bound by it; weak unconditional domestic 2020 target but willing to increase ambition based on science and international negotiations
Small island states Strong preference for a strong mitigation regime based on science, but officially opposed to subjecting themselves to binding emission limits, particularly as they are not being asked to do so; concern about climate impacts would likely lead them to accept reasonable legally binding mitigation obligations in the context of others doing the same if necessary to secure global action
Least developed countries General preference for a strong mitigation regime based on science but officially opposed to subjecting themselves to binding emission limits, particularly as they are not being asked to do so; concern about climate impacts would likely lead them to accept reasonable legally binding mitigation obligations in the context of others doing the same if necessary to secure
global action
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