Select Page

EU at the UN

The EU's commitment to effective multilateralism, with the UN at its core, is a central element of its external action. As a UN observer with enhanced status, the EU delegation coordinates with its 28 Member States to speak with one voice. The EU also works closely with the UN secretariat and its agencies, funds & programmes, partnering on a range of global issues and challenges.

Opening speech by Stavros Dimas, Member of the European Commission, responsible for environment, at the 8th Session of Working group 2 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Brussels

Distinguished delegates of the 8th Session of Working Group 2 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, I would like to welcome you to Brussels on behalf of the European Commission.

The impact and importance of the work carried out by the IPCC cannot be overestimated. Only a few weeks after Working Group 1 published the first Volume of the 4th Assessment report, the European Heads of State and Government committed the EU to a historic package of energy and climate change policies and targets.

The package is unique, both in its level of ambition and in its integrated approach. President Barroso has described it as heralding a new industrial revolution to create the low-carbon economy of the future. It will strengthen not only the fight against climate change but also Europe’s energy security and competitiveness.

The EU’s starting point is that climate change must be limited to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures. As the Commission stated in its January communication, to have even a 50/50 chance of keeping within this 2 degree limit, global emissions will need to peak around the year 2020 and then fall by as much as 50% of 1990 levels by 2050.

The European Council has set out key targets that need to be included in a global and comprehensive new agreement that would take effect after the Kyoto Protocol targets expire in 2012. The group of developed countries must reduce its emissions to 30% below 1990 levels by 2020. The EU has committed itself to take on this target in the context of an international agreement that comprises other industrialised countries.

Developing countries whose emissions are projected to overtake those of developed countries by 2020, should also participate although in a differentiated manner. Those among them that reach a level of economic prosperity similar to developed countries should take on obligatory emissions reduction commitments. These should reflect each country’s per capita emissions, its potential to reduce them and its financial capacity.

Naturally, no mandatory reductions would be asked from the least developed countries, which in any case have the lowest emission levels. And as they are also the most vulnerable to climate change, we must increase our cooperation with them to help them minimise the negative impacts of climate change.

The Commission’s climate change Communication outlines concrete options for strengthening developing countries’ participation in a future regime. These include the possible expansion of Kyoto’s clean development mechanism so that emission-saving projects in developing countries can put those countries on a low-emissions path. The Commission also proposes improving access to finance for new energy infrastructure.

Let me add that deforestation, an issue we sometimes tend to overlook, will need to be halted within two decades and then reversed. Together with energy efficiency, this has been identified by the Stern review as one of the “low-hanging fruits” that need to be grasped as a part of our global climate response.

The European Union is not waiting for others to take action. Even before negotiations on a global agreement start, the EU leaders have agreed that the EU should make a firm, independent commitment to reduce our emissions by at least 20%.

In the current climate discussions, countries are waiting for others to move first. Only EU leadership can break this impasse. Our commitment to act, combined with the growing pressure for action coming from the IPCC and public opinion, can be the catalyst for change.

An EU independent commitment will also give a clear signal to economic operators that we are serious about moving towards a low-carbon economy. This will provide the long-term certainty that our industry has been asking for. It will create a secure basis for the future of the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme and will give industry a clear incentive to invest in low carbon technology beyond 2012.

The EU’s decisions have injected fresh momentum into the international debate on climate change. What we have to do now is capitalise on this to achieve an international consensus on further action. To avoid a policy gap after 2012 it is essential that negotiations on a global agreement are launched at the UN ministerial conference on climate change in Bali at the end of the year.

The Commission has recently come forward with important new initiatives that will contribute to reaching our new climate targets. Many of them concern the transport sector – the only major sector in Europe whose emissions are still rising. In December we proposed a directive to tackle carbon dioxide emissions from aviation by bringing this sector into the EU emissions trading scheme from 2011. CO2 emissions from aviation have grown almost 90% since 1990, much faster than any other transport sector. By 2020 our approach will save over 180 million tonnes of CO2 every year.

In January we proposed a revision of the fuel quality directive that, among other things, requires a 10% cut in greenhouse gas emissions from transport fuels by 2020. Cumulatively this will save around 500 million tonnes of CO2.

In February, we comprehensively revised the EU’s strategy for reducing CO2 emissions from new cars. The Commission decided to propose legislation to reach the long-standing goal of cutting average emissions to 120 grammes per kilometre by 2012.

The EU emission trading scheme will remain the cornerstone of EU climate policy. Later this year we will be proposing revisions to improve and strengthen the scheme, in anticipation that it will play a central role in a post-2012 global climate agreement. This revision will broaden emission trading to new sectors and gases, streamline the allocation process and prepare the ground for linking the EU ETS with other trading schemes around the world.

However, even if we are successful in limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, climate change will have serious impacts in Europe and elsewhere. Highlighting again the importance of your work, the Commission will therefore in a few weeks publish a Green Paper on an EU strategy on adaptation to climate change. The best way to reduce the costs of adapting to climate change is early actions and EU coordination of measures at Member State level. In parallel, the Commission should support research that further reduces uncertainty and improves our understanding of how Europe and other continents will be affected by climate change.

The 7th European Community Framework Programme for Research will play an important role. It has a significantly increased budget for research on mitigation and adaptation to climate change as well as energy and transport technologies from 2007 to 2013. On energy, the 7th Research Framework Programme will promote moves to more sustainable sources of energy with as budget of 2.3 billion €, while on transport, the Research Programme foresees support to develop integrated, “greener” and “smarter” pan-European transport systems with a budget of 4.18 billion Euro

Carbon capture and storage has the potential to make a big contribution to de-carbonising our economies. The Commission will be putting forward a regulatory framework during the course of this year. The Commission’s intention to have 12 large scale carbon capture and storage demonstration projects in operation by 2015 was also endorsed by the European Council.

Distinguished delegates,

The fight against climate change is now rightly recognised as a strategic priority by the European Union and, increasingly, elsewhere.

The European Union has risen to the occasion by putting in place the world’s most ambitious global strategy for combating climate change. Our task over the next few months is to convince our partners to follow our example. It will not be easy but I believe the prospects for success have never been better.

The European Community is looking forward to your finalisation of the 4th IPCC assessment report on impacts and adaptation. The fight against climate change can only be won on the basis of sound science. I hope that the facilities which the European Commission and the Belgium Government provide to support your work will help a successful outcome by the end of this week.

FaceBook Twitter