Friday, October 24, 2014

EU Sets Challenge to U.S. with Toughest Emissions Target

Smoke billows from the chimneys of Bełchatów, Poland, Power Station, Europe's largest coal-fired power plant.  (Credit: Reuters/Kacper Pempel) Click to enlarge.
European Union leaders backed the most-ambitious carbon emissions goals of any major economy, in a bid to crank up pressure on the U.S. and China ahead of climate talks in December.

Heads of government from the bloc’s 28 nations endorsed a binding target to cut greenhouse gases by at least 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030 at a summit in Brussels.  Meeting that goal would cost about 38 billion euros ($48 billion) a year, according to EU estimates.  The EU is on track to meet its previous goal of a 20 percent reduction by 2020.

“That sends a strong signal to the international community and I hope that the signal is being received today in Washington, in Beijing and other big economies so that they will prepare their ambitions accordingly,” EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in an interview.  “Now investors, businesses, everyone will know that this is where we are headed -- these are the targets.”

The agreement on emissions ensures the EU remains the leader in the fight against global warming before the United Nations climate summit in Lima in December where delegates aim to persuade other large polluters to sign up for worldwide accord they aim to clinch in 2015 in Paris.

“Like all good accords, this is a compromise,” French President Francois Hollande told reporters today.  “Not all countries are in the same situation, and this agreement is expensive for some countries.”

Doubters Wrong

The European accord required unanimity and overcoming differences between poorer, mostly ex-communist east European nations and richer countries in western Europe. France, Portugal and Spain reached a compromise to build more gas and power connections across the Pyrenees while the U.K. and Germany bridged their divide over an energy efficiency goal.

“Many said it was the wrong thing to do at the wrong moment; today we have proved those doubters wrong,” European Commission President Jose Barroso said at a press conference after the deal was agreed.  Other nations have to “step up to the plate,” he added.

Poland, which had threatened to veto the deal unless it addresses the country’s concerns of a surge in power prices, won assurances that its utilities will get free carbon permits under the EU emissions trading system, or ETS, after 2020 and that the country will have access to funds for modernizing coal-based plants.

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