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Europe sets out its stall at the beginning of 2009

Attila the Hun at Flickr)

Europe has its sights firmly fixed on Copenhagen (Source: Attila the Hun at Flickr)

Barely a month after the end of the Pozna? conference, the European Commission has attempted to set the agenda for the next COP/MOP, which will be held in Copenhagen in December 2009.

The move came in the form of a Communication issued last week that sets out the Commission’s views on a wide range of the issues facing the UNFCCC as they aim to reach agreement over post-2012 arrangements.

Three of the main elements of the Communication are as follows:

Developed countries need to cut their emissions substantially below 1990 levels. The EU’s view is that developed countries should set targets that would reduce their emissions by 30% by 2020.

Developing countries need to set binding limits on their emissions. The Communication suggests a target reduction of 15-30% below ‘Business As Usual’ emissions by 2020.

The Clean Development Mechanism needs to be reformed and its use phased out in some countries and sectors. The Commission is advocating reform of the CDM to address concerns that many current CDM projects currently in operation or in the pipeline are not likely to their expected level of carbon reductions. It also believes that a sectoral, rather than a project-level, approach would be more efficient in some of the more advanced developing countries.

The document also contains a number of other proposals, including requiring all countries to develop adaptation strategies, bringing international shipping and aviation into the scope of the international agreement, and a dramatic increase in energy research and development.

The Commission’s statement reads like a shopping list of all the key components that would be required for an effective post-2012 climate regime. A pessimist might argue that it also reads like a list of reasons why a deal is unlikely to happen at Copenhagen. Despite the increased level of political will to address climate change in the new US administration, there is widespread doubt over whether a cap-and-trade system can be approved within the first year of the Obama presidency, and it is not clear that the administration is eager to set a US emissions cap that is anything like as tight as the EU desires. Similarly, China’s Premier Wen Jiabao played down expectations that China would commit to any binding targets for greenhouse gas reductions during his recent visit to Europe. And getting developed countries to commit to significant funding streams for CDM-based mitigation in developing countries will be far from easy given the current stae of their economies.

The Communication is an indicator of the EU’s desire to maintain momentum after Pozna? and to set the agenda at the beginning of an intense year of discussion. It will be engaging in an enormous amount of negotiation over all these issues between now and December, and as with its own Energy and Climate package, any eventual deal will inevitably entail compromise. Europe has persistently striven to be a leader in forming global climate policy, and it will be anxious to continue in that role during 2009. But it will also be acutely aware of the old wise-crack that a leader without followers is just a guy taking a walk.

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  1. Derek Pieper

    Great post! Looks like it’s more ‘climate game theory’ at play, significant consequences with this match though. Even with the big US shift, EU leadership is certainly needed.

    Any ideas about who (if anybody) outside the EU might cozy up to these positions?

    I’m not that optimistic about the so called umbrella countries (ie. Canada, Australia, etc…).

  2. Dafydd Elis

    I asked a similar question to a panel at an event hosted by King’s College London on Friday, and Professor Paul Ekins suggested that each of the elements are mutually dependent. The example he gave was US-China: a binding commitment to an emissions cut in the US will be a very hard sell domestically unless China agrees to some kind of binding target itself.

    But as for other countries’ positions, I’m not sure, and I suppose that in any case there’s a good ten months of negotiation to go before countries need to make a final decision on whatever agreement is tabled at COP15.

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