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Dimas criticized a German plan to build at least 26 new coal-fired power plantsImage: AP

EU Pushes for Climate Action

DW staff / AFP (jam)
May 5, 2007

Europe led demands for a deal to slash global greenhouse gas emissions after the UN's top scientific panel said early, deep cuts could avert the worst of long-term climate damage -- and at a modest cost.


In a statement shortly after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its report on Friday, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas called for a breakthrough in efforts to shape a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

"Negotiations on a new global climate change agreement must be launched at the next UN ministerial conference in December," Dimas said. "It is now time for the rest of the international community to follow our lead and commit to ambitious reduction targets."

The 27 EU countries have vowed to cut their emissions of heat-trapping carbon gases by 20 percent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels. It has offered to deepen this to 30 percent if other major polluters follow suit.

Menu for emissions control

Deutschland EU Klima Steinkohlekraftwerk Scholven in Gelsenkirchen
The IPCC report said cutting greenhouse emissions wouldn't cost the worldImage: AP

The IPCC report, released in Bangkok on Friday, laid out a menu of options for limiting emissions, adding that cleaner fuels, more efficient technology and confirmed policy options were all available for achieving this goal.

Under one of the report's scenarios, to keep warming to 2.0-2.4 C (3.6-4.3 F) over pre-industrial times, emissions would have to peak by 2015 and reduce to 50 percent to 85 percent of 2000 levels by 2050. Yet the cost would shave only around 0.12 percentage points off annual global economic growth.

The Kyoto Protocol, the only global agreement that sets specific targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, expires at the end of 2012. Talks on renewing the deal are under way, with the next big round scheduled to take place on the Indonesian resort island of Bali in December.

But progress faces two big stumbling blocks -- the absence of the United States, the world's biggest polluter, from the present treaty; and the reluctance of China, India, Brazil and other large developing countries to be drawn into promising targeted emissions cuts.

Under the present Kyoto format, only industrialized countries, which are most to blame for global warming, make these pledges.

"We can prevent it"

Bundesumweltminister Sigmar Gabriel steht vor einem Filmplakat des mit zwei Oscars ausgezeichneten Films
Gabriel said it's time to put together an international climate policyImage: AP

Germany, which is current president of the EU and Group of Eight (G8), on Friday said the IPCC report showed "climate catastrophe is not inevitable. We can prevent it."

"It's important that we set the right course at the climate conference in Bali. Science has done its work, now politics must do its work," said German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

The head of Kyoto's parent organization said the Bangkok report clearly showed climate change could be addressed at a reasonable cost.

"We can tackle the issue, limit and reduce the CO2 emissions without destroying the world economy," Yvo de Boer, the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said at a press conference in Berlin.

"The report gives a very encouraging signal that we have at our disposal the technologies," de Boer said. "With these options we have a chance of preventing some of the most catastrophic scenarios,"

Washington low-key

Bangkok, Weltklimarat
Protesters wanted politicians to take faster action against climate changeImage: AP

In contrast, the rhetoric in Washington was low-key and businesslike.

The US government voiced support for the IPCC document as a report that would help policymakers "make more informed decisions" and said the United States had been an "active and constructive participant" in Bangkok.

It gave no indicator as to whether Washington would shift its opposition to emissions caps, which the EU champions.

Environmental groups, meanwhile, seized on the IPCC report as confirmation that carbon pollution could be tackled affordably.

Stephan Singer, European head of climate and energy with the conservation organization WWF, said the report showed "for the first time that stopping climate pollution in a very ambitious way does not cost a fortune."

"There is no excuse for any government to argue that it is going to cause their economy to collapse," he said.

"We now have very, very clear options on how to deal with climate change," said Stephanie Tunmore, a Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner.

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