EU takes acid test on climate change | WWF

EU takes acid test on climate change

Posted on 08 January 2007
Artificial snow being spread out, Italy.
© WWF/Claudia Delpero

Brussels, Belgium – The proposal for a EU common energy policy, to be presented to the European Commission this Wednesday, is an acid test as to whether the EU is serious about its commitment to avoid climate change or merely wants to parade its green credentials on the world stage.

WWF calls on the EU to put in place the concrete measures needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The EU must aim at a unilateral domestic target of 30 per cent reduction by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. Any lower target is equal to the EU failing to live up to its responsibility.

“The EU, the largest industrial manufacturing and trading bloc with almost 500 million citizens, can show the way and establish long-term measures to keep global warming under control,” says Stephan Singer, Head of WWF's European Climate and Energy Unit.

“Europeans cannot afford to wake up in 20 years time and realize that too little was done, because at that point it will be too late.”

Last year was the warmest year ever recorded in some European countries, such as the UK and the Netherlands. The UK, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands saw their warmest Julys on record, while in central and south-east Europe extraordinarily fast snowmelt and heavy rainfall pushed the Danube  River to its highest levels in over a century.

As energy accounts for 93 per cent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in Europe, action in this sector is key to guaranteeing development options for future generations. But because of high-cost infrastructures, such as power plants and pipelines, achieving significant changes requires long-term planning. This is why action is paramount now and not deferred to some point in the future.

According to WWF, the EU must adopt a binding target to increase energy from renewable sources (such as wind and biomass) to 25 per cent of all energy used in 2020, accompanied by specific targets for electricity, heating and cooling and biofuels to take into consideration the needs of different markets and investors.

Also, Europe should agree to save 20 per cent of the energy used. This can be achieved through energy efficiency and energy conservation in the transport, buildings and electric equipment sectors.

In addition to the expansion of renewable energy and energy conservation, an immediate assessment of geologic carbon storage potential should take place to ensure legally binding regulation on carbon capture and storage. In this way, by 2020 all power stations will be subject to mandatory carbon capture and storage.

As far as markets are concerned, a full separation of power production from power distribution (“unbundling”) will be necessary to ensure energy from renewable sources is integrated into the grid and gain major market shares.

• The “EU energy package” proposed by the European Commission will be discussed at the EU Environment and Energy Councils in February, and finally adopted by EU Heads of State and Government during the European Council in March 2007.

WWF paper with a collection of 2006 climate records worldwide. Other than in Europe, the paper includes key facts on global warming in US, Canada, Australia, China, India, Africa, as well as in the Arctic and Antarctic.

• In order to keep global warming below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels, the EU must adopt a 30 per cent unilateral domestic greenhouse gas reduction target by 2020. This will send a signal that the EU considers a low carbon economy profitable and responsible. The target should not be conditional to other countries’ actions. To the opposite, it should increase in the range of 40–50 per cent if others are prepared to do more.

• Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a way to mitigate climate change by capturing and compressing carbon dioxide from large sources, such as power plants, and storing it away safely instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. According to experts, CCS may help to reduce carbon pollution by up to 90 per cent from coal and gas power stations.

For further information:
Dr Stephan Singer, Head of European Climate and Energy Unit
WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 496 550 709

Claudia Delpero, Communications Manager
WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 2 740 09 25
Mobile: +32 497 406 381