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EU leaders: We want to be climate champions…but we don’t know how

climate and energy policyFriday, early morning, EU leaders adopted a new climate and energy policy. A policy which should guide the unions’ effort towards a low carbon transformation, including targets which would feed into the forthcoming global climate agreement, to be adopted in Paris 2015.

Footprints of ambitious countries

It should be acknowledged that there are ambitious countries within the EU. At the late night meeting, some heads of states, probably led by Sweden and Denmark, must have fought for increased ambition. However, their efforts were not enough, and their footprint is limited to inclusion of “at least” when talking about targets. It is clearly an opportunity to push the ambition upwards, but it does not give the guidance towards a true climate commitment needed.

Business as usual

A new climate target is agreed at “at least 40% reduction in 2030”. Even if this is below what science and NGOs would suggest, it was expected as a realistic compromise. However, a true transformation towards low carbon development will not happen with only a CO2 target. There must also be clear direction on how to transform our societies, and unfortunately heads of state did not deliver any concrete answers.

Yes, there are targets for both renewable energy and energy efficiency, important elements in a green transition. However, these targets are weak, and won’t inspire much more than business as usual, if the current green investments continue. If EU leaders would have liked to lead towards a real change of the union, more ambition would have been needed.

A mixed signal to the world

The EU decision was expected, and countries all over the world have been following the talks. When EU communicates its targets, it gives signals to other countries, which are preparing similar targets. If the EU target would have been ambitious, it would have put pressure on other countries to also ramp up ambition.

Next step: ramp up ambition!

Climate change is a global challenge and all countries need to contribute. The global effort sharing can not only be based on what countries intend to do. It must also reflect the scientific predictions, and recommendations for how to tackle the global warming. When parties, including EU, submit their CO2 reduction targets to the UNFCCC next year, it must be with a willingness to increase ambition if needed. Thus, the EU climate and energy policy adopted now should be seen as a baseline, and an intended contribution. The small words “at least” before the actual targets will now be crucial to hold on to.

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