EU leaders: The time is NOW!

12 December 2009

ECO had expected more of the EU this week. Meeting in Brussels right in the middle of the two-week Copenhagen negotiations, leaders of the EU’s 27 member states had a golden opportunity to give a much-needed boost to the UN talks by upping their tabled 20% emission reduction targets for 2020 to 30%. This would have been an important step to move closer to the 40% emission cuts that developed countries need to make by 2020 to keep warming well below 2˚C. This is something the EU can readily achieve, bearing in mind that the original 20% target can already be met without any further domestic effort.

Sadly however, the EU chose to stick to its line that others must move before it raises its own target, once again undermining its self-proclaimed climate leadership. It also applied this defensive approach to the question of long term finance. It merely repeated the need for such money while remaining deafeningly silent on the question of how much the EU will actually contribute. Long term finance is what developing countries are eagerly waiting for in these talks and a serious EU offer could be a real game changer.

Of course, fast-start money is important too. So the EU’s announcement of €2.4 billion per year over the period of 2010-2012 would have been a positive first step, if it wasn’t for one fatal flaw. The fast-start pledge seems to consist mostly of a recycling of past commitments, including on ODA, that have been given a shiny new ‘climate’ branding. Very little new money has been put on the table. These negotiations must show that a clear shift has taken place. The usual recycling of past promises just won’t wash.

There was also a deafening silence by all the EU leaders on the burning issues of hot air and LULUCF. ECO has commented extensively on these loopholes in recent days. Are EU leaders really happy to live with the dishonesty and hypocrisy that these accounting tricks represent?

ECO did note with relief that the EU has officially called for a legally binding outcome by June 2010, which is already a big movement of the goalposts. However, its leaders must understand that for this to become a reality they need to exercise true leadership over the next week. This means making firm and bold moves on the EU’s reduction target and financial offers early – not just at the final hour.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France are to be commended for their joint press statement yesterday that seemed to nudge the EU in this direction. Other states and Germany, in particular, need to understand that other countries will not be inspired by an EU that is holding out on moving forward. Only courageous action will draw out equally stringent responses from other Parties.

The formal conclusions of the EU leaders’ deliberations refer to the Copenhagen talks as “a historic opportunity for the international community to act together to respond to the challenge of climate.” ECO couldn’t agree more. This is why we urgently call on them to step up their offers on all fronts as soon as possible, and well before the end of next week.

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