What's New in the EU: Climate change

The European Commission proposed last month a comprehensive package of measures to establish a new Energy Policy for Europe to combat climate change and boost the EU's energy security and competitiveness.

stavros dimas 88 298 (photo credit: Bloomberg)
stavros dimas 88 298
(photo credit: Bloomberg)
To mark the second anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol's entry into force on February 16, European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas called for the international community to begin negotiations urgently on a comprehensive global climate change treaty that would succeed Kyoto when its targets expire in 2012. Commissioner Dimas visited Washington last week for talks with high-level US government officials and members of Congress on future global climate change action and other environmental issues. The European Commission proposed last month a comprehensive package of measures to establish a new Energy Policy for Europe to combat climate change and boost the EU's energy security and competitiveness. The package of proposals set a series of ambitious targets on greenhouse gas emissions and renewable energy and aims to create a true internal market for energy and strengthen effective regulation. The Commission has stated it believes that when an international agreement is reached on the post-2012 framework this should lead to a 30% cut in emissions from developed countries by 2020. To further underline its commitment, the Commission proposed that the European Union commits now to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 percent by 2020, in particular through energy measures. A true internal energy market The Commission claims that the aim of the above measures is to give real choice for EU energy users, whether citizens or businesses, and to trigger the huge investments needed in energy. Supposedly, the single market is good not just for competitiveness, but also for sustainability and security. The Commission has learned, through competition sector enquiry and internal market communication, that further action is required to deliver these aims through a clearer separation of energy production from energy distribution. It also called for stronger independent regulatory control, taking into account the European market, as well as national measures to deliver on the European Union's target of 10% minimum interconnection levels, by identifying key bottlenecks and appointing coordinators. The visit to Washington During his visit to Washington, Commissioner Dimas is said to have set out the ideas contained in the above integrated energy and climate change package. By putting forward concrete targets and proposals for action, the plan is believed to create fresh momentum in discussions to prepare the ground for a new global climate change agreement. The Commission wants to see this translated rapidly into the start of concrete negotiations. Prior to his visit to Washington, Commissioner Dimas said: "It is crucial that the United States and all other major emitters participate in these efforts. The very grave threat that climate change poses is global, and only a global solution can avert it. I am very encouraged that interest is rapidly increasing in the United States for using emissions trading as a key tool to limit greenhouse gas emissions, as we are doing in Europe." Commissioner Dimas continued: "With the climate change and energy package we put forward on January 10, the European Commission is leading the way in showing what needs to be done. The essential next step must be for developed countries as a group to reduce their emissions to 30% below 1990 levels by 2020. Developing countries also need to start reducing the growth in their emissions in line with their ability to do so. This bold action is achievable and affordable - and it is essential if we are to have a chance of limiting global warming to no more than 2 C above the pre-industrial temperature. Two degrees centigrade is the threshold beyond which science tells us that the risk of irreversible and possibly catastrophic changes will sharply increase. For the sake of future generations we cannot afford to let that happen." Meeting of meteorologists As part of the Commission's "You control climate change" awareness-raising campaign, more than 45 meteorologists and television weather presenters from across the European Union met last weekend at the Commission's Berlaymont headquarters in Brussels. As both climate experts and media personalities in their home countries, weather presenters are said to be well-placed to help the campaign's aims of raising public awareness about climate change and what individuals can do to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They are being invited to form a network to support these goals. The campaign seeks to give people a sense of personal responsibility by providing practical tips on how everyone can help to reduce emissions through small gestures such as installing energy-efficient lamps and recycling waste. It is using a variety of communication tools including television, on-line and outdoor advertising, a dedicated Web site and a special school program. syrquin@013.net The author is head of the International Department at the Joseph Shem-Tov law firm.