EU global actions
The EU, responsible for some 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, cannot win the battle against climate change on its own. Climate change is a global threat that only global action can address effectively. In line with the UN principle of 'common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities', rich nations have to take the lead, but climate change will not be tamed unless developing nations also contribute – their emissions are projected to overtake those of the industrialised world by around 2020.
Global talks on further international action to combat climate change, under the auspices of the UN, started in May 2006. The European Union wants these to lead to the launch of formal global negotiations on a new climate change agreement at the next UN climate change conference in December 2007. The objective of the new agreement should be to ensure that global warming does not exceed the temperature in pre-industrial times by more than 2°C, since a rise beyond this threshold could trigger irreversible and possibly catastrophic planetary changes.
To stay within this temperature limit, worldwide emissions will need to stop rising by around 2020 and will then have to be cut to around half of their 1990 level by 2050. The EU is proposing that, as a first step, developed countries should commit to reducing their collective greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below 1990 levels by 2020. Developing countries should also make a start by taking action to slow the growth in their emissions. Though ambitious, these targets are both technologically feasible and economically affordable.
Climate change has happened in the past but never at this rate. Current rates of change are faster than the time required for species to counter-evolve.
The EU is also working internationally to help partner countries tackle climate change. In 2005, the EU agreed a number of ground-breaking climate change partnerships, notably with China and India. They include cooperation on practical solutions to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy. In the context of the partnership with China, the Commission and the UK are funding the first phase of work on a near-zero emission coal plant in China, using carbon capture and storage technology. This technology allows the CO2 emitted when power stations burn coal or other fossil fuels to be captured and stored in underground geological formations where it cannot escape back to the atmosphere.
Together with Morocco, the Commission chairs the Johannesburg Renewable Energy Coalition (JREC), a coalition of 90 countries that are working together to promote renewable energy. In 2006 the Commission also launched the Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund (GEEREF) to mobilise private investment in sustainable energy projects in developing countries and economies in transition.
EU governments have also set aside more than €2.7 billion for investments in emission-saving projects carried out under Kyoto Protocol rules in third countries, mostly developing nations (Clean Development Mechanism [CDM] projects) but also other developed countries with Kyoto emission targets (Joint Implementation [JI] projects). These projects have the benefit not only of generating emission credits that help the EU member states reach their emission targets by 2012 in a cost-effective way, but also of transferring advanced technologies to the host countries and supporting them in moving towards sustainable development. The EU Emissions Trading Scheme also allows participating companies to use CDM and JI credits to supplement their emission allowances. According to market data, more than 2,400 CDM projects are in preparation.