November 3, 2011 11:48 pm

EU pushes for global carbon cuts ‘road map’

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The world can no longer have a system of tackling climate change that obliges some countries to cut their carbon emissions but lets others get away with mere voluntary targets, the European Union’s climate commissioner has declared.

In a blunt statement underlining the growing pressure on China and other large emerging economies to pull their weight on cutting emissions, Connie Hedegaard said the latest round of UN climate talks, starting in Durban later this month, must move beyond “traditional 20th century thinking” that divided the world into a rich north and poor south.

“Why is it that pledges [on carbon emissions] from one part of the world should be binding, whereas the pledges from another part of the world should not be binding?” Ms Hedegaard said at a media briefing in Brussels. “That makes no sense in the 21st century.”

EU countries and other wealthy nations are the only ones legally bound to cut their carbon pollution under the 1997 Kyoto protocol treaty. Developing nations, including China, do not face such obligations, even though China is now the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, and other fast-growing economies are seeing a rapid rise in their emissions.

As the deadline approaches for the end of the first Kyoto protocol commitment period at the end of 2012, the EU and a small group of other wealthy nations have declared they will not sign up for a second deal – which China and developing nations are insisting on – unless all countries agree to take some action, even if poorer ones do less than wealthier ones.

“We are mutually interdependent and we are trying to address global challenges and whatever any of us pledge must be equally binding, but of course we have to pledge different things,” said Ms Hedegaard.

The EU is pushing for the Durban negotiators to agree to a “road map” in which all countries would commit to take some action by 2015.

“The EU accounts for 11 per cent of global emissions,” she said, adding that it would be impossible to limit global warming to reasonable levels “unless the remaining 89 per cent also commits to a future set-up”.

“Without a road map – no second commitment period,” she declared.

It is unclear whether the US, which never ratified the Kyoto treaty, will support the road-map idea.

Ms Hedegaard said Brussels would stand firm against mounting pressure from the US and some other countries over the EU’s plan to bring aviation into its emissions trading scheme from the start of next year.

The US and more than two dozen other nations succeeded in adopting a declaration at the International Civil Aviation Organisation in Montreal on Wednesday opposing Brussels’ move to charge all airlines entering EU airspace for their carbon pollution from January.

Though the action carries more political than legal weight, Ms Hedegaard insisted it would not sway Europe’s commitment to make airlines pay for their emissions, which make up a relatively small amount of global emissions today but are forecast to be 70 per cent higher by 2020.

“How long should this sector not contribute?” she said.

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