06 February 2009

Parliament calls for EU climate change 'diplomacy'

EurActiv, 5 February 2009  

The European Parliament yesterday (4 February) adopted detailed recommendations for a future integrated policy on climate change by large majority, calling on the EU to commit to more ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets and make energy-saving targets legally binding.

According to the MEPs, the EU and other industrialised countries should set a collective target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25-40% by 2020, and by at least 80% by 2050 from 1990 levels.

The suggested goals came amid concerns that "climate change is both more rapid and more serious in terms of its adverse effects than was previously thought". In addition, the MEPs urged the EU to make the 20% energy efficiency improvement goal legally binding.

The Parliament detailed its views in the final report of its temporary committee on climate change, which sought to coordinate the House's common position on the negotiations for an international, post-Kyoto climate deal. The report, drafted by MEP Karl-Heinz Florenz (EPP-ED, Germany), stresses that climate change must become a factor in all policy areas. It consequently lists a wide range of fields where its recommended measures should be taken.

These include energy, biofuels, energy efficiency, carbon capture and storage and transport, which were already dealt with in the energy and climate package adopted in December (EurActiv 18/12/08). But many others were also added, such as agriculture, livestock rearing, tourism, health and education.

External climate policy

MEPs called for the establishment of a "foreign policy on climate change," drawing attention to the bloc's climate targets in both EU and national level diplomatic missions. As part of an external energy strategy, they suggest creating solar energy partnerships with Mediterranean countries.

EU lawmakers also called for increased funding to help developing countries combat climate change and proposed to make emission reduction requirements and adaptation measures an integral part of development aid programmes.

Domestic measures

The Parliament sought to address the shortcomings in terms of energy efficiency in the building sector by calling for a target to have all new residential buildings energy-neutral by 2015 and new commercial and public buildings by 2020.

To finance climate policies in the future, MEPs called for the establishment of a European Climate Fund, or corresponding funds in the member states. They urged EU governments and the EU institutions to create a renewable energy community, stressing the need to support research and development in green transport technologies such as hydrogen, electric, fuel cells, hybrids and advanced biofuels.

Moreover, the Parliament asked the Commission to consider devising emissions targets for the agricultural sector.

MEPs also recommend various strategies to engage the general public in the fight against global warming. It urges the Commission to develop communication campaigns to disseminate scientific information on climate change, and to set "simple efficiency standards for all areas of everyday life" - as well as fiscal incentives - to direct the public towards responsible energy consumption.

Moreover, member states should give free energy audits to help citizens reduce their energy consumption, MEPs state.


MEP Karl-Heinz Florenz (EPP-ED, Germany), draftsperson of the final report, said cooperation with the transport and economics committees as well as the energy sector contributed to a balanced report, which is not a "party-political manifesto".

MEP Guido Sacconi (PSE, Italy) urged the next Parliament, which assumes office after the June elections, to equip itself with a similar cross-sector instrument, and not to return to "putting everything in watertight, separate compartments".

Romana Jordan Cizelj (EPP-ED, Slovenia) agreed the committee had to be innovative. According to her, the best areas to take action are in energy policy, transport and industry, but there are many new areas, such as the sustainable use of forests, ICT and development policies towards third countries. "In the end, we will also have to change our lifestyles and make taking care of the environment a core value. Informing and educating European citizens is of crucial importance here," she said.

MEP Rebecca Harms (Greens, Germany), however, questioned the unity that lies behind the report. She said the weak role Europe played in UN climate talks in Poznan showed EU states were concerned about watering down earlier announcements. "The decision whether we will move towards a sustainable lifestyle has not been made yet," she argued.

Furthermore, MEP Caroline Lucas (Greens, UK) warned the EU was still doing too little, too late. According to her, Europe should not compare its achievements against what others are doing but against what needs to be done. "Against this measure, we're still failing," she concluded.

MEP Chris Davies (ALDE, UK) regretted that both the Parliament report and the Commission communication failed to put the issue of reducing population growth on the agenda. "Our refusal to talk about it is the greatest folly," he said, calling for better medical resources to make contraception available to all women.

MEP Jens Holm (GEU/NGL, Sweden) criticised the MEPs' rejection of a demand for a reduction in meat consumption, despite the report's statement that livestock production is responsible for 18% of emissions worldwide.

Czech Environment Minister Martin Bursík, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said the report would further deepen the EU's climate policies and serve as a basis, along with the Commission's Copenhagen Communication, for the bloc's position in the UN climate negotiations.

He gave assurances that the EU would continue to "engage in active outreach", in response to the Parliament's call on the Commission and the member states to "adopt a mediating role at bilateral level in the negotiations towards a post-2012 agreement". In particular, he said the EU would work as close as possible with the US on linking carbon markets to provide financing for effective long-term climate policies.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said he was pleased to see the committee had continued in line with the Commission's thinking as outlined in the communication on a new global climate deal. He stressed that more investment in resources, especially in developing countries, was needed to make Copenhagen a success, stating that in the Commission's view, a third of the money should come from emissions trading.

Next Steps

  • 19-20 March 2009: EU heads of state and government to discuss the EU’s position in the international climate negotiations.

  • 7-18 Dec. 2009: UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

The European Parliament set up a temporary committee on climate change on 25 April to contribute to making climate change a priority on the European and international agendaw. The committee's final report, adopted on 4 February 2009, makes wide-ranging recommendations regarding the EU's future integrated climate change policy, providing the Parliament's common position on the international climate negotiations.
The report followed a Commission Communication on Copenhagen, published on 28 January 2009. It outlines the EU executive's proposals for a global agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol (EurActiv 29/01/09).

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