Greenhouse gas target too weak to stop climate change

23 January 2008

Promising parts overshadowed by Bali-backtracking and push for biofuels

Brussels, 23 January 2008 - As the European Commission today revealed its proposals for a new energy package [1] Friends of the Earth Europe warned that plans to cut the EU's greenhouse gas emissions by only 20 percent will not be sufficient to avert dangerous climate change. The environment group says the Commission has backtracked on its position at international climate negotiations just weeks ago and calls on the Parliament and the Council of Ministers to dramatically strengthen the target.

Friends of the Earth Europe climate campaigner, Sonja Meister called the EU emission reduction target for 2020 "a missed opportunity". "The promising parts of this energy package are overshadowed by a greenhouse gas target that falls well short of what is needed. Reducing greenhouse gases by only 20 per cent is simply not enough. The EU must live up to the agreements made in Bali and commit to at least 30 per cent emission cuts at home," she said.

Friends of the Earth Europe is also highly critical of the Commission's support for agrofuels (also known as biofuels) against the advice of their own scientists and growing international concern.

Adrian Bebb, agrofuels campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Growing crops to fuel our thirsty and inefficient cars will be a disaster for the environment and is a false solution to climate change. Any claims that biofuels are sustainable will be a sour joke for the world's poor who will be forced to pay more for their food. The EU should abandon its 10 per cent target for the use of biofuels in transport."

Key points from the European Commission energy package:

20 per cent emissions reduction target not sufficient

Bigger emission cuts are needed if the EU is to meet its own target of limiting temperature increases to two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. The 20 per cent cut by 2020 announced today goes against the 25-40 per cent emissions cuts for industrialised countries agreed at the international climate negotiations in Bali - a range that was supported and pushed by the EU. Friends of the Earth Europe calls on the European Parliament and Council to rewrite the package based on at least 30 per cent domestic emission cuts by 2020. This level of ambition is urgently needed to limit climate change to two degrees and would send the right signal to the international community.

Effort sharing between Member States (non-ETS emissions)

Under today's proposals, reductions would not have to be made solely domestically but can be achieved by using external credits bought from countries outside the EU. This undermines the urgency for Europe to make emission reductions at home. Friends of the Earth Europe say that external credits should only be used on top of 30 per cent domestic reductions to finance international activities with a clear climate and environmental benefit.

The proposal for the effort-sharing among EU countries contains no real compliance regime and only requires Member States to report on the cuts achieved. Without an effective compliance instrument including intermediate binding reduction targets and a mechanism to ensure that Member States cut their emissions year-by-year, there is no way to ensure that reductions really happen across the Member States.

Furthermore, the baseline year, 2005, that the Commission has used to calculate emission reductions is not the Kyoto baseline years. This means that countries that have increased their emissions in the period 1990-2005 (e.g. Spain, Austria, Luxembourg, Italy) will profit and their targets will be lower as when they would have reduced their emissions before.

Review of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)

Emissions under the European Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) will deliver the other part of the cuts needed for the EU emission target for 2020. Friends of the Earth Europe welcomes the new EU wide CAP as a good move towards stricter emission cuts but demands that the ETS cap be set in line with a target of at least 30 per cent domestic emission cuts and that the number of external credits obtained from projects outside the EU be restricted. Instead of the Commission's weak auctioning proposals which allow significant free allocations to industrial sectors, certificates should be fully auctioned in all sectors.

Renewables Directive shows improvement

Friends of the Earth Europe welcomes the implementation of an overall share of 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020 and the Commission's move to take out mandatory trading from this directive. As the text reads now, trading of renewable electricity (known as Guarantees of Origin) is better regulated and only those Member States that have reached their national interim targets may transfer Guarantees of Origin to other underachieving countries. This is a positive move and will not hamper the development of all types of renewables across the EU.

Commission still supports unsustainable biofuels

The regulations for biofuels within the Renewables Directive are particularly weak and will not provide any guarantee of sustainability. Knock-on effects of increasing agrofuel production such as rising food prices and indirect deforestation will not be covered, nor will the many social and human rights issues. Biomass can be used more efficiently in electricity and heat production than as a transport fuel.

Energy efficiency totally lacking

A target to improve the EU's energy efficiency by 20 per cent by 2020 as agreed by the EU last year is completely lacking from the package. Energy efficiency represents the EU's biggest potential for reducing emissions and reports from the EU state that 20 per cent more energy efficiency could be reached at zero net costs. According to Friends of the Earth Europe energy efficiency remains a non-topic as discussions in the EU on climate protection move on.

***

NOTES

[1] The proposals from the European Commission include a breakdown of Member State emission reduction targets for 2020 ("effort sharing"), a new framework for renewable energy, a review of the Emissions trading Scheme (ETS) after 2012 and new rules for carbon capture and storage.

 

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