The UN’s secretary-general has called on EU leaders to set an example and agree on an ambitious 2030 target at a Council Summit in June, that can be taken to a UN conference in Lima three months later.
According to EuroActiv.com, the target is potentially designed to shape a global, legally-binding treaty by the end of 2015.
“Yesterday I [told] President Barroso and President van Rompuy that you must do it [agree a climate package] during the June summit meeting,” Ki-Moon said at a Brussels conference on 3 April. “Lead by example and bring your ambitious target to the UN summit meeting in September. I hope that you will press your leaders of each and every respective country.”
The EU executive has proposed a 40% cut in greenhouse gas pollution and an aspirational 27% market share for renewable energies to be achieved by the end of the next decade, that Ban Ki-Moon said he strongly supported.
But under pressure from Poland and and other east European states, the bloc’s heads of state failed to agree the package at a Council meeting last month, setting an October deadline for reaching consensus instead. Ki-Moon blamed “political situations like the Ukraine, and the EU’s dependency on gas and oil energy,” for the impasse.
If the EU brings no pledges to the UNFCCC conference in Lima, reciprocal concessions from other UN states are unlikely. That, in turn could jeapordise chances of a post-Kyoto Protocol deal at the Paris COP (Conference of Parties) in December 2015, and signal geopolitical paralysis in the face of a rapidly warming planet.
Global emissions today are already 60% higher than when the first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was produced in 1990.
Earlier this week, the IPCC’s 5th Assessment report concluded that climate change had already begun and posed an ‘unequivocal’ and ‘unprecedented’ threat to biodiversity, food and water supplies, and human security. A sense of urgency from the UN secretary-general’s office was palpable.
“The foundations for this [new] agreement must be firmly in place by the time that the parties meet in Paris,” Ki-Moon said. “I have been urging member states that by the time we meet in Lima, we must have a draft text that will be the basis for discussion over the coming year.”
“Europe’s leadership is essential,” he continued. “The EU is one big locomotive with a strong and most powerful engine. There are some countries reluctant to lead by example, so pull these countries from ahead, and push from behind with your engines. You can move this climate change process much faster.”
The EU has committed to a 20% cut in its emissions by 2020, compared to 1990 levels – a target it is on track to meet – and last year saw its emissions fall a further 3.1%, according to Thomson Reuters Point carbon point.
Critics though say by counting carbon output at the point of production rather than use, the bloc has merely outsourced much of its greenhouse gas pollution.
Scientists like Professor Kevin Anderson, the deputy director of Manchester University’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Research argue that the EU has botched the EU has botched its maths, and even meeting its 2030 target would only offer a 50-50 chance of keeping global temperature rises below 2 degrees.
Europe’s headline figure at least compares well to that of President Obama, who inherited a climate policy detached from Kyoto commitments under George W. Bush. Obama has promised merely to reduce carbon emissions 3.5% below 1990 levels.
But EU leaders are also increasingly under-stated about climate action and talk with ever more conviction, volume and pitch about the need to strengthen Europe’s industrial competitveness through access to cheaper energy prices.
The recent Ukraine crisis sparked some calls for increased energy efficiency, but louder ones advocated a fracking boom, despite the potential high environment costs and limited economic gains.
Lies Craeysnest, a policy advisor for Oxfam, said that Ki-Moon’s real message had been aimed at EU businesses and states that were trying to delay climate action.
“At the June summit, EU leaders need to stop dithering and unequivocally signal that ambitious and comprehensive EU climate action will no longer be held hostage to short term narrow-minded interests,” she told EurActiv.
Ki-Moon had talked wearily of “world leaders who are narrowly looking to a national agenda” and said that by the time they were ready to act, “I will have left my job and everyone will have to regret what we’ve neglected”.