European Ministers Plan to Limit Climate Change

MONTECATINI, Italy, July 18, 2003 (ENS) - Energy and environment ministers from the 15 European Union member states and 10 accession countries kicked off a three day joint session in Montecatini today. The informal council is organized by the European Union's Italian presidency which assumed the reins of power for a six month period on July 1.

The meeting takes place as Italy is gripped by drought and an energy crisis, and Europe is parched by a heatwave attributed to climate change by the World Meteorological Organization.

In a paper prepared for the meeting the Italian presidency sets out challenges for integrating energy and environmental policies. The ministers will also debate the implications of liberalization of energy and environmental markets.

Senior EU policy makers underlined the gravity of the policy challenge facing Europe and the world in their opening remarks. Both EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom and the European Environment Agency's new chief Jacqueline McGlade pointed out that most member states are moving away rather than towards their Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas limitation targets.

McGlade

Environmental scientist Jacqueline McGlade became head of the European Environment Agency on June 1. She is a dual citizen of the United Kingdom and Canada. (Photo courtesy UK Environment Agency)
The protocol, an agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), requires 37 industrialized countries to reduce their emission of six greenhouse gases during the first five year committment period 2008 to 2012. The EU and all member states have ratified the protocol, which requires that each country cut its emissions by eight percent.

The main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, is produced by the combustion of coal, oil and gas to produce electricity and to power vehicles.

The annual emissions inventory released in May by the European Environment Agency shows that EU greenhouse gas emissions in 2001 increased for the second consecutive year, moving the EU further away from meeting its commitment to achieve a substantial emissions cut by the 2008-2012 period.

At this week's meeting, the ministers are preparing for the next meeting of UNFCCC Parties to be held in Milan, Italy December 1 through 12. Their discussions will cover climate and energy policy beyond 2012, when the current Kyoto Protocol committment period ends.

According to an observer present at the talks, Wallstrom called for the European Union to set a target of boosting renewable energy to 25 percent of energy consumption by 2020.

This is more than twice the European Union's current target of 12 percent to be achieved by 2010 under a renewable energy law passed in 2001. Renewable sources of power, such as wind, solar, and geothermal energy, do not emit greenhouse gases.

German environment minister Juergen Trittin called for robust action to counter the threat of global warming, according to the source. In particular, Trittin called for international agreement to aim to limit any rise in average world temperatures to no more than two degrees Celsius.

power lines

Power lines transmit energy generated by England's Arable Biomass Renewable Energy Power Station which burns willow wood grown on farmland across the north of England. (Photo courtesy FreeFoto)
The Italian Presidency, too, has proposed that long term climate and energy policy should stick to the goal of limiting climate change below a two degree Celsius increase in temperature.

But WWF, the conservation organization, warns that permitting such a two degree increase would mean "more frequent and intense extreme weather events such as droughts and floods and 50 to 120 million more people at risk from hunger."

"We must stay well below a two degree increase in temperature to prevent serious damage," said Germana Canzi, WWF climate and energy policy officer.

The WWF supports Wallstrom's objective that 25 percent of all energy should be derived from renewable sources by 2020, and in addition supports a one percent annual reduction in energy consumption within the European Union. The potential in Europe for energy savings throgh energy efficiency is "enormous," the WWF says.

“There is no effective EU wide policy to boost energy conservation,” said Stephan Singer, head of WWF’s European Climate and Energy Policy Unit. “Energy conservation is perhaps the most widely overlooked policy in the EU," he said June 25 as the WWF released its policy paper calling for an annual increase in energy efficiency.

To help reduce Europe’s dependency on fuel imports as well as limit climate change, the WWF proposes legally binding product standards, including reduction of stand-by losses of electrical appliances, which consume up to 13 percent of all household electricity use in Europe. In addition, the group proposes mandatory efficiency standards for all electric appliances in households, offices, and industry.

{ENDS Environment Daily contributed to this report. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email: envdaily@ends.co.uk; Website: http://www.ends.co.uk}