Monday 26th September 2016                 Change text size:

EU must reconsider climate targets if UN talks fail, says energy commissioner



Photo: Sébastien Bertrand via Flickr

Europe should only attempt to cut its carbon emissions if the rest of the world comes to a global climate change pact at a crucial UN summit in Paris next year, the EU’s outgoing energy commissioner has said.

Speaking at an oil and gas conference in Brussels, Gunther Oettinger suggested the continent should not pursue decarbonisation unless it is joined by its neighbours.

In October, EU leaders are expected to agree on a range of climate targets, among them carbon emission reduction targets of 40% by 2030 and an EU-wide target for renewable energy of 27%.

In late 2015, world leaders will meet in Paris to thrash out a binding accord to curb emissions around the globe. However, if the summit fails, much like previous talks, Oettinger said sticking to EU targets could leave Europe at a disadvantage.

“If there is no binding commitment from countries as India, Russia, Brazil, the US, China, Japan and South Korea, whose governments are responsible for some 70% of global emissions, I think it is not really smart to have a -40% target,” he said.

“If we are too ambitious and others do not follow us we will have an export of production and more emissions outside the EU.”

It is estimated that around 10% of annual greenhouse gas emissions come from the EU, while China and the US emit 29% and 15% respectively. 

According to the Global Carbon Project, the EU currently produces 6.8 tonnes of carbon per capita. The US emits 16.5 tonnes per person, while China emits 7.2 tonnes per person.

However, due to its early industrialisation, Europe bears much of the historical responsibility for cumulative carbon emissions. The UK, for example, ranks fifth out of 185 nations in the table of carbon emissions from 1850-2011, according to one recent analysis.

In UN talks held in New York on Tuesday many leaders of EU countries, alongside the US and China, promised to support poorer nations, which have contributed much less to the climate crisis.

Photo: Sébastien Bertrand via Flickr

Further reading:

EU to create investment fund to meet emission targets

Climate change damages in the EU could amount to €190bn – study

Just three EU countries on track to meet energy efficiency targets

EU leaders to set October deadline for 2030 climate goals

Row expected over European 2030 binding energy and climate targets


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