Ministers must increase the EU's climate commitment, not punch it full of holes

[Brussels, October 14 2010] - At today’s Council meeting, EU Environment Ministers will decide whether or not the EU is going to get serious about combating climate change. Two major issues on the agenda, the EU’s emissions reduction target and how to count logging emissions, will definitively demonstrate the EU’s level of commitment to leading the fight against dangerous climate change. CAN Europe [1] is calling for an immediate move from the EU’s current weak 20% to a domestic 30% emissions reduction target, on the way to 40%, which must include strong, loophole-free rules for logging emissions.

“Over the past few months, we have seen increasing support at the very highest levels of the EU, supporting a move to 30% emissions reductions,” said Tomas Wyns, CAN Europe Senior Policy Officer.  Supporters of the move include, most recently, Danish Prime Minister Lars Rassmussen, in addition to the support already voiced by the the French, German and British governments.   The latest emissions data from the European Environment Agency shows that the EU is already emitting 17% less than in 1990, proving that the 20% target (by 2020) has almost been achieved (in 2010) without any effort. Therefore, a move to 30% would require minimal additional effort. Economic analyses by the European Commission and others also show that the move to 30% would come with important economic benefits. [2] In addition, reducing emissions now would make it more likely that the EU attains its own goal of 80-95% emissions reductions by 2050, as legislated in the EU Climate and Energy package of 2008.

It is worrisome that a a powerful group of big industrial polluters are working behind the scences to block a unilateral EU move to 30%. A recent report [3] shows that the European manufacturing indusrtry has made more than EUR14 Bil in additional profits using free allowances provided through the EU ETS, money that could instead be spent researching and implementing innovative technologies that would enable industries to move to 30% reductions.

Forestry rules represent another key debate for EU Environment Ministers today. European NGOs have two very simple asks in this area. First, the forestry sector must do its part in the global effort to reduce emissions, rather than contributing to the problem, and second, emissions must be counted in an honest and transparent manner. [4]

“At EU level, Sweden, Austria and Finland especially are resisting environmentally sound accounting rules, which would guarantee that their forestry sectors can chop down even more trees without having to count the emissions,” Wyns asserted.

Environmentally sound logging rules should be applied to both EU and international climate policy.  If these principles are not applied both levels, it would allow countries worldwide to use accounting tricks to hide the equivalent of the annual emissions of Spain. Such negligence would punch holes in the efficacy of any global climate deal. This issue should remain at the forefront of today’s meeting when Ministers discuss the EU’s position for the next climate negotiations in Cancun.

[1] Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is a coalition of over 130 citizens’ organisations in Europe working to stop the most dangerous effects of climate change.
[2] CAN Europe’s press briefing on the -30% emissions reduction target outlines economic arguments for making the move.
[4] For details, see CAN Europe’s letter to environment ministers on forestry emissions rules (i.e., LULUCF)