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CLIMATE CHANGE: Europe Makes Shy Commitments

Claudia Ciobanu* - IPS/TerraViva

COPENHAGEN , Dec 11 2009 (IPS) - “Decision-makers should stop thinking in realpolitik terms and acknowledge that we are out of time,’’ says Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth (FoE) in Europe.

The behavior of political leaders is “almost like a conscious decision to go against science,” she told IPS in an interview.

Stoczkiewicz added that, with the emission reduction targets that are being discussed in Copenhagen, it is unlikely that the goal of restricting global warming to a two degree Celsius increase as compared to preindustrial levels can be met.

Scientists say that, at a two percent increase, the consequences are already very difficult to anticipate and manage.

FoE and the Stockholm Environment Institute have issued a report showing how the European Union (EU) can reduce its emissions by 40 percent until 2020 based on 1990 levels.

In Copenhagen, the EU is proposing it will make reductions of between 20-30 percent, depending on the position of the other parties.

“It is premature to set a fixed number for the moment, so early on in the negotiations,” Karl Falkenberg, Director General of DG Environment in the European Commission (EC), told IPS on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, speaking in Brussels following a EU summit, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared that the EU should cut emissions by 30 percent by 2020 on 1990 levels.

A few hours later, during a press conference in Copenhagen, Anders Turesson, the chief negotiator for Sweden (the country holding the EU presidency), declared that “there are no conclusions so far about the emissions target of the EU, this should be expected sometimes this week.”

Even after the Brussels statement, negotiators in Copenhagen insist that the emissions target the EU can commit to is still to be determined. As it was made clear even from before the COP15 negotiations began, the EU is using emissions targets as tools in the negotiations.

Clearly, Copenhagen is not the place where negotiating parties state clearly how much emissions they can realistically reduce in the next decade in order to make a common effort to keep global warming under manageable levels.

The financial commitments made by developed to developing countries are also slow to emerge and regarded insufficient.

EU leaders pledged on Friday in Brussels 2.4 billion euros (3.5 billion US dollars) per year (starting from January 2010) for a “fast-track” fund to help the poorest developing countries deal with the negative effects of climate change and reduce emissions.

Speaking in Copenhagen, Sweden’s chief negotiator , Anders Turesson, said that this money should be seen as the beginning of a long-term effort to support developing nations.

Artur Runge-Metzeger, the chief negotiator of the European Commission, said that the EU is encouraging other developed countries to pledge matching amounts. He added that, since the average income in the U.S. is higher than in Europe, he hopes that the U.S. would contribute at least as much as the EU.

The EU estimates that 7 billion euros (10.3 billion dollars) are needed annually to address the most urgent adaptation needs of developing countries.

Turreson specified that the EU money will go mainly to adaptation measures in the LDCs (Least Developed Countries), but larger developing countries are not excluded.

The amount pledged by the EU “is pocket money as compared with what is needed,” FoE’s Stoczkiewicz told IPS. “It is very little; my colleagues in Britain say the amount committed by their country represents half of the country’s humanitarian budget (which is below one percent of GDP).”

Equally controversial is the fact that the pledge made by the EU does not contain any stipulation that would prevent countries from deducting the climate change aid from their humanitarian aid budgets. ‘’It is up to each member state of the EU whether they distinguish between these funds or not,’’ said Turesson.

With the two announcements in Brussels, the EU is hoping to give a push to negotiations at the end of a week when much friction between the participants has allowed very limited results to emerge.

On Friday, the first chairman drafts of the Kyoto Protocol (KP) and the Long-Term Cooperative Action under the Convention (LCA) – the two tracks on which an agreement is being negotiated in Copenhagen – were released.

The LCA draft is, at the moment, a 7-page document which does not have a legally binding character and does not include detailed arrangements for adaptation or financing.

“It is possible that we will reach an agreement about a legally binding text next week,” said Turreson, “but much more work will be needed.”

(* This story appears in the IPS TerraViva online daily published for the COP 15 at Copenhagen.)

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