EU Changes its tune on CO2 emissions from developing nations

In a dramatic shift away from their 15-year long commitment to the theme of "common but differentiated responsibilities,"EU nations have adopted a position very similar to the American notion that developing countries must commit to specific carbon reduction targets as part of the post-2012 Kyoto agreement.

Wikipedia desribed the concept of "common but differentiated responsibilities" as,

China, India, and other developing countries were not included in any
numerical limitation of the Kyoto Protocol because they were not the
main contributors to the greenhouse gas emissions during the pre-treaty
industrialization period. However, even without the commitment to
reduce according to the Kyoto target, developing countries do share the
common responsibility that all countries have in reducing emissions.

Since the 1998 Byrd-Hagel resolution was passed in the Senate, US policy toward international climate change negotiations has been to encourage developing countries to commit to specific reductions in their emission forecasts. Until developing nations agreed to abide by specific reduction requirements, the U.S. would not enter into similarly binding international agreements on the issue.

In their Oct.20 meeting, EU Environment Ministers essentially agreed to the sentiments of the Byrd-Hagel resolution by resolving that,

In addition to comparable CO2 reduction commitments by developed
states like the US, rapidly developing countries "would have to reduce
their emissions by 15 to 30% below business as usual" by 2020 in order
for the EU to sign up to a global emissions reductions regime in
Copenhagen in December 2009 …

The need for European members to encourage the remainder of the world to sign on to similar voluntary restrictions on CO2 emissions was bolstered by the input of Italy and six Eastern European countries.

By using their veto
threat, Italy and the six east European members deleted all reference
to the EU Commission’s climate strategy from the Council statement, and
they also won the right to modify the strategy to make it “cost
effective.”

Poland opposes the climate
plan because it is dependent on coal for 95% of its electricity. Two
weeks ago, the EU Parliament endorsed a plan from the EU Commission to
reduce greenhouse emissions with a tough cap-and-trade scheme that
would price coal out of the energy market, due to its high carbon
content. Without coal, Polish officials are worried that they would
have to turn to Russian natural gas. For the Poles, however, energy
dependence on Russia, their former master, is unacceptable.

Greece, Hungary, Slovakia,
Romania and Bulgaria are also coal dependent countries in eastern
Europe, and they share Poland’s fear of energy dependence on Russia.
That’s why these states agreed to join together to oppose the EU’s
climate plan at the European Council.

Instead of energy
security, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi cited international
competition as the reason that Italy opposed the climate plan.

As the post-2012 era rapidly approaches, it is becoming apparent that economic reality is playing a growing role in the negotiations. No longer are nations able to coast on the positive media and fuzzy feelings generated by agreements to reduce emissions at some future date. They are now being forced to address the very near-term fiscal reality that unilaterally imposed, strict carbon reduction requirements will impact their ability to provide stable and secure energy to their citizens and to compete in international markets.

Update: Both the French and German governments are resisting the strict transporation-related restrictions being advocated by other members of the EU.

During the Environment Council on 20 October, the Dutch rose to
defend a proposal from the European Commission requiring car
manufacturers to curb the CO2 emissions of new vehicles to 120 g/km in
2012 and called on the EU not to lose sight of its ambitious climate
change goals for 2020.

Indeed, the French EU Presidency had been pushing EU governments to
abandon the Commission’s plans, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy
and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreeing last June on a compromise
deal, which was then presented as the basis for negotiations at the
Environment Council.

The French compromise involved phasing-in the target, requiring full
compliance only as of 2015 and without clear long-term objectives. It
also sought lower penalties for offenders which are only marginally
above their targets and wanted to introduce extra credits for carmakers
which use innovative means of producing cleaner cars or selling very
low-emission vehicles.

But, according to government sources, the Dutch position was
supported by many other EU states at the meeting, with the UK, Belgium,
Sweden, Finland and Denmark speaking out in its support.

Only Germany was categorically against requiring car manufacturers
to cut the CO2 emissions of new vehicles by 18% by 2012, and France
seemed reluctant to raise the issue during discussions, the sources
said.

 

24. October 2008 by
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