Hedegaard Warms Up With New Climate Strategy

Onsdag, 10. Mars 2010     0 kommentti(a)
Thomas Spencer
Internationell miljö- och naturresurspolitik forsknigsprogram
For the first time, there is a subtle but significant shift in the framing of the EU’s conditionalities around a move to a 30% target. The communication states that the EU may be willing to move to the higher target “if the conditions are right”. It then goes on in a footnote to recall the December 2009 EU Council, which linked the 30% target to a “global and comprehensive agreement” and “comprehensive emissions reductions” from other players. In the EU, where every word and line is strenuously vetted, relegating a key principle of last year’s position to a footnote is unlikely to be an accident and may presage a change of tack.    

Indeed there is in general less emphasis on waiting for others to act, and more on seizing the initiative out of economic interest. The Commission is tasked with assessing the policies necessary for a reduction target of 30%, and should present its report by June.

The communication also clearly states that “the Kyoto Protocol remains the central building block of the UN process” and invites the Commission to “assess the merits and drawbacks of alternative legal forms, including of a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol”. Again some significance could be read into this: last year the EU didn’t want to be seen in the same room as the Kyoto Protocol, instead advocating for a single deal to replace it. However, the EU may be coming to realize that prematurely abandoning the Kyoto Protocol and building an agreement from bottom up for all emitters would be – politically and technically – like building a sandcastle in a cyclone.

As part of its strategy to emphasize the need to reform and complement the Kyoto Protocol, the EU communication highlights the huge loopholes in it, namely the surplus of emissions rights, and the accounting rules for forestry. Given that both forestry accounting and surplus allowances were two extremely contested issues inside the EU last year, it remains to be seen whether the EU can find solutions internal and then represent a credible position internationally.   

The EU’s communication clearly states its desire for a legally binding outcome under the UNFCCC. In endorsing the UN negotiation process, the EU notes – as does India – that the Copenhagen accord can serve a useful function in feeding political consensus into the UN negotiations. Regarding the path forward, the EU sets a rather ambitious deadline to agree on a set of soft-law decisions by the end of 2010, and transform these into a treaty by the end of 2011.

While thus endorsing the UN, the EU also refers to its own emissions trading legislation which potentially provides for the use of emissions reduction credits “in accordance with agreements concluded with third countries”. Thereby the EU suggests that it may consider taking this route around the UN, to develop carbon market agreements bilaterally with interested developing countries. This approach would entail a fine line between an expedient approach to build bilateral alliances on the one hand, and the EU’s endorsement of the “rules of the game” under the UN on the other.         

The new communication shows signs that there are new hands behind the wheel, and that some lessons have been learned from Copenhagen. It signals a shift the debate around the EU’s higher emissions target, and the EU’s position on the legal nature of the final deal. 2010 will not be boring.

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