EU leaders talk 2020 climate targets

April 15, 2005

EU heads of government have for the first time set a target for avoiding global warming for the period after 2012.


At a summit last month, the 25 leaders supported a proposed EU goal that global temperatures should not be allowed to rise to more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. They also supported a call from environment ministers to aim for a 15-30% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from industrialised countries by 2020.

The decision followed a unanimous statement from environment ministers earlier last month, in which they called not only for the 15-30% reductions by 2020 but for a 60-80% reduction by 2050 in line with accepted thinking on critical loads of climate warming gases. The 25 leaders declined to approve the 2050 target.

T&E director Jos Dings said: “This is significant progress, albeit slow progress. It is the first indication that targets are being set for the second Kyoto period.

“At the same time we are entitled to wonder exactly how serious the heads of government are, as they approved the targets for 2020 at a summit where they seemed more concerned with competitiveness. We are not yet convinced that they understand that the competitiveness agenda could undermine environment protection.”


This point was emphasised by the environment ministers, who said there was “confusion over the status of environment policy” in the Commission’s recent renewal of the Lisbon competitiveness strategy.

And a leading transport MEP has accused the EU of abandoning attempts to make transport sustainable. Gilles Savary, a French socialist who is vice-president of the European Parliament’s transport committee, told the news service EurActiv: “The dynamic [of EU transport policy] today is essentially road-based.” He particularly criticises the way the Eurovignette directive has been “manipulated” by road interests, from being an instrument intended to encourage modal shifts to “a road charging tool designed to finance road transport”.

The EU leaders’ statement comes as another large-scale survey has further illustrated the damage human activity is causing to the global environment. The Millennium Assessment, ordered by the UN secretary general Kofi Annan in 2000, looked at how 25 ecosystems have performed over the past 50 years. It concludes that 15 of them (60%) are being degraded or used unsustainably, it blames the developing world, and says the results could be wars and migration of refugees.

This news story is taken from the April 2005 edition of T&E Bulletin.

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