Thursday, 24 January 2008

The EU’s climate and energy package fails to help the poor

Europe set itself up in Bali as a world leader on tackling climate change but is in danger of falling at the first hurdle, international agency Oxfam and Friends of the Earth Europe warned yesterday. The European Union has missed a crucial opportunity with its Energy Package to help the world's poor - the very people who suffer most from climate change. Biofuels could be part of the solution to tackle climate change and poverty alleviation, but not under the EC's current plans. Its own internal report has shown that the EC has failed to think through its 10% target for transport fuels by 2020 and that the costs of its biofuels policy will outweigh the benefits. The EC's headlong rush into biofuels has already caused a big scramble by poor countries keen to cash in.

Oxfam believes the EU should scrap its current plan for biofuels. When it goes back to the drawing board it must ensure that the use of biofuels will contribute to cost-effective CO2 emissions and development - not potentially make both worse. The European Commission must also rethink its targets for emissions cuts by member states. The current calculations that focus on a 20% cut in emissions will mean Europe has to abandon its objective of keeping temperature increase below the EU-approved target of 2° Celsius.

Friends of the Earth Europe also warned that plans to cut the EU's greenhouse gas emissions by only 20% will not be sufficient to avert dangerous climate change. The environment group says the Commission has backtracked on its position at international climate negotiations just weeks ago and calls on the Parliament and the Council of Ministers to dramatically strengthen the target.
Friends of the Earth Europe is also highly critical of the Commission's support for agrofuels (also known as biofuels) against the advice of their own scientists and growing international concern. Bigger emission cuts are needed if the EU is to meet its own target of limiting temperature increases to 2° Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.

Emissions under the European Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) will deliver the other part of the cuts needed for the EU emission target for 2020. Friends of the Earth Europe welcomes the new EU wide CAP as a good move towards stricter emission cuts but demands that the ETS cap be set in line with a target of at least 30% domestic emission cuts and that the number of external credits obtained from projects outside the EU be restricted. Instead of the Commission's weak auctioning proposals which allow significant free allocations to industrial sectors, certificates should be fully auctioned in all sectors.

Friends of the Earth Europe welcomes the implementation of an overall share of 20% renewable energy by 2020 and the Commission's move to take out mandatory trading from this directive. As the text reads now, trading of renewable electricity (known as Guarantees of Origin) is better regulated and only those Member States that have reached their national interim targets may transfer Guarantees of Origin to other underachieving countries. This is a positive move and will not hamper the development of all types of renewables across the EU.

A target to improve the EU's energy efficiency by 20% by 2020 as agreed by the EU last year is completely lacking from the package. Energy efficiency represents the EU's biggest potential for reducing emissions and reports from the EU state that 20% more energy efficiency could be reached at zero net costs. According to Friends of the Earth Europe energy efficiency remains a non-topic as discussions in the EU on climate protection move on.

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