For those fighting to preserve the earth’s climate, the second decade of the 21st century has begun with two bad news:
· UN member countries will not honour the deadline of February 1st, by which to submit their climate targets for 2020, as “agreed” in the “Copenhagen Accord”. That might be the beginning of the end of this bizarre voluntary accord concluded in the last night of the Copenhagen Climate Conference.
· The Democrats have lost the majority in the US Senate. This is likely to be the last straw for on the US Climate Bill.
But there are also two potentially good news:
· Brazil, South Africa, India and China, the BASIC group, which will become the world’s biggest green house gas emitters in the 21st century, will meet January 23/24 to debate their future climate strategy. Even if the outcome is likely to be a repetition of their demands for deeper cuts by the “West”, it shows the emergence of a small group of countries with the potential to become a serious interlocutor.
· The EU continues to re-affirm its willingness to reduce its emissions by 30 percent until 2020, provided this offer is being reciprocated by other OECD countries.
The EU should no longer wait for the UN process to proceed at its sluggish course, with projected meetings in Bonn at the end of May and in Mexico at the end of November. Lacking proper preparation these meetings are almost certain to end without positive results.
It should therefore invite the major OECD emitter countries (USA, Japan, Canada, Australia, Korea and Turkey) to a meeting to discuss possible emission cuts at the horizon of 2020-2050, as a basis for ulterior negotiation with the BASIC group.
There cannot be a no serious discussion without full US participation. The House and the Administration are in agreement for a cut of 20 percent compared to over 2005. That may not look very impressive to Europeans using 1990 as their reference year. But when extending their respective commitments targets to 2030 one discovers more convergence. Why not then go directly for a target of 35 percent reduction by 2030, with consistent interim targets for 2020.
With the Congress apparently incapable of legislating the Administration should finally have courage to act on its own. The Environmental Protection Agency can legally do so. It only needs to transpose the provisions of the House Bill into an executive order which would impose emission caps on the main emitters and organise a nation-wide system of trading emission rights. That would be enough as a basis for a credible national climate policy and restore their US international reputation.
In any event, what matters is that OECD and BASIC countries should in any case rapidly talk to each other on targets and means to achieve them. Humanity cannot afford to clash on a vital issue like climate change. Both the rich and the poor have the same basic interest in maintaining a stable climate. The rich have to go ahead faster than the poor, . Each of ttheir citizens emits roughly four times as much green house gas;. and tThey possess the technological and financial means to reduce their emissions levels much faster than the emerging countries.
We urgently need a serious debate among the main parties. The EU has a responsibility to make it happen. It should rapidly get its act together!
Thoughts on energy and climate, the Mediterranean and whatever comes to mind.
About: Rhein on Energy and Climate
Eberhard Rhein has devoted most of his life to European and global issues. During the 1980s and 1990s, he served successively as chef de cabinet to the Commission VP in charge of external relations and director responsible for the Mediterrranean and Arab world.
For the past 10 years he has focused more on global environmental issues.
He also gives a course on economic policy at the "Mediterranean Academy for Diplomatic Studies" in Malta. He is the author of many articles on EU, Mediterranean and international subjects