In parliament >> European leadership?

14th October 2011

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Chris Davies warns MEPs that Europe risks being left behind in the race for green technology

The EU’s chief climate change negotiator has given MEPs a gloomy assessment of prospects for the latest round of UN-sponsored talks taking place in Durban later this year. Securing a legally binding international agreement, he said, is “not realistic”.

Many developed nations are distracted by economic problems. Developing nations such as China don’t want curbs on their growth. Climate change denial is rampant in the US. And so the world sleepwalks towards disaster.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has insisted that the rise in CO2 emissions must be halted by 2015 if temperatures are not to rise by more than 2°C this century. There is no hope of achieving this.

So, should the EU try to lead by example? The bloc is on track to meet its modest Kyoto commitments and has acknowledged the need to reduce emissions by 80–95% against 1990 levels by 2050.

Yet it is only committing to reducing them by 20% by 2020. Now the commission has published a “roadmap” to the 2050 target, setting milestones along the way, such as a 40% reduction by 2030.

If adopted, it will provide the basis for agreement on specific policy proposals. But adoption is far from certain. In the Council of Ministers it is currently blocked. I have the task of drafting the European Parliament’s response.

To try to secure the support of MEPs I will point to the urgency of giving industry clear direction about the priorities for long-term investments. I will remind them that Europe risks being overtaken by the Far East in the development of green technology. And I will tell them that greater energy efficiency is simply good sense.

A vote in favour will count for little unless member states also endorse it. But a vote against risks destroying the EU’s resolve to tackle climate change. It would be a damning blow.


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