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Climb-Down: Hedegaard Backtracks On EU Climate Targets

EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard yesterday (26 May) presented a paper making the case for moving towards a unilateral 30% cut in EU greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. But she failed to stand behind it, bowing to pressure from France and Germany.

The EU’s climate chief unveiled a new communication arguing that increasing the EU’s 2020 climate goal to a 30% emission reduction from 1990 levels would be both affordable and technically feasible.

The European Commission estimates that as a result of the economic downturn, the cost of meeting the current 20% target has dropped to €48bn per year until 2020, down from an initial estimate of €70 billion when the package was agreed.

Consequently, making the extra effort to reach 30% would now cost just€11bn more than what EU governments signed up to two years ago, it argued (EurActiv 03/05/10).

The crisis has also taken its toll on the EU emissions trading scheme (EU ETS), the bloc’s flagship tool for cutting global warming emissions, by bringing down carbon prices.

Hedegaard warned that carbon prices might not automatically go up when Europe exits the crisis, requiring greater carbon-cutting ambitions to stimulate green investment.

Climate climb-down

But despite making the case for moving to 30%, the commissioner did not lend her support to unilateral EU action, saying that the shift would remain conditional on progress towards a new international climate treaty.

“Are the conditions right now? Would it make sense at this moment? My answer would be ‘no’,” she said.

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