EU - no let up on climate change

2013-03-27 21:30
Steam and smoke pouring from the coal burning power plant in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Martin Meissner, AP/File)

Steam and smoke pouring from the coal burning power plant in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Martin Meissner, AP/File)

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Brussels - The EU must keep fighting climate change despite the bloc's economic woes, its executive said on Wednesday as it launched the search for new emission cut goals by 2030.

The commission voiced concern that, as the eurozone crisis drains state coffers, members could lose sight of the battle against global warming, melting ice caps and rising seas.

"Climate change is getting worse," warned Connie Hedegaard, the 27-nation bloc's commissioner for climate action, urging a continued shift from fossil fuels to clean renewables.

"The EU's dependency on energy imports is increasing, and so is also our bill to pay for this," said Hedegaard. "It is not wise for our economy."

The European Union has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by mid-century based on 1990 figures, the most ambitious target among major economic powers.

"We are conscious that the road ahead in the next decade will be more difficult in the current economic environment," Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said.

"But it is our ambition ... with realistic, pragmatic, but still ambitious goals."

For 2020, the bloc had set a "20-20-20" strategy - cutting emissions, raising the share of renewable energy and improving energy efficiency by 20% each.

"While progress has been made until 2010, there are reasons for concern about future progress," the Commission cautioned.

40% cut

"Additional efforts will be needed for member states to stay on track in the forthcoming years."

The search for new goals for 2030 will now focus minds, said Hedegaard and Oettinger as they opened a public consultation on what the next steps should be.

The commission's own analyses have suggested that, if the EU wants to meet its 2050 goal, it needs to make a 40% cut in emissions by 2030.

Environmental groups and Green politicians immediately took the commission to task for not being more aggressive.

The Greens in the European Parliament argued that the EU is capable of slashing emissions by more than 50% by 2030.

Greenpeace said the goal should be at least 55%.

But the BusinessEurope confederation warned that the EU is pursuing "an unrealistic decarbonisation time scale that Europe cannot afford."

Asking too much too soon, the industry lobby argued, would create "a permanent disadvantage in comparison with our main trading partners".

Read more on:    greenpeace  |  eu  |  europe  |  environment  |  climate change

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