Can the Old World Lead on Global Warming?


Spiegel Online | Business Week

Wednesday was a busy day for the global climate. On one side of the Atlantic Ocean, the European Union unveiled its vision for what the next global climate deal should look like—a deal that is set to be hammered out in much anticipated talks in Copenhagen at the end of December.

On the other, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on climate change which could mark the first small step toward steering the US away from the head-in-the-sand policies pursued by the just-ended administration of George W. Bush. Al Gore, America’s global warming Cassandra, was the hearing’s star guest. And in his eagerness to urge the Senate to take action, Gore said that he didn’t think the EU could play a leadership role when it comes to tackling the problem of climate change.

“I do think it’s objectively true that our country is the only country in the world that can really lead the global community,” Gore said, refering to global warming. “Some have speculated that some time in the future if the European Union actually unifies to a much higher degree … they might somehow emerge with potential for global leadership. I’m not going to hold my breath.”

It is a message that isn’t likely to play well in the European Union. Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas on Wednesday announced the EU’s negotiating position for the upcoming talks on the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The EU would like to see a reduction in global emissions of CO2, one of the primary greenhouse gases responsible for global warming, by 30 percent relative to 1990 levels by 2020. The goal is to limit the average global temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius.

As part of its plan, the EU proposes the introduction of a carbon cap and trade system of the kind currently in operation in the European Union. All 30 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development would be required to join the emissions certificate market by 2015 and would be required to cut their emissions. Developing countries would join later and would have to “limit the growth of their emissions to 15 to 30 percent below business as usual.”

Furthermore, the EU—which has already undertaken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the 27-nation bloc by 20 percent relative to 1990 levels by 2020—held out the carrot that, “in the context of a sufficiently ambitious and comprehensive international agreement,” the EU would be willing to cut emissions by 30 percent.

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