EU vote firms up moves to a 30% emissions cut

By Martin Leggett - 26 May 2011 17:39:0 GMT
EU vote firms up moves to a 30% emissions cut

The EU's parliament took a big step, Tuesday, towards committing itself to a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, by 2020. Its environmental committee voted firmly in favor of such a move - to be signed up to by the end of the year - which paves the way for a further vote in the parliament within a month. With an increasing realization that the future economy will be a green 'clean-energy' one, the MEPs (Members of European Parliament) seemed keen to raise the bar from the current 20% reduction, relative to 1990 levels. 

With the EU already approaching a 17% reduction in emissions in 2009, thanks to the 2008 recession, many have been calling for the target to be raised. The likelihood that the 30% cut may become adopted across the EU is also good news for those concerned about the UK's recent carbon budget. That linked the proposed halving of the UK's emissions, by 2027, to the wider EU committing itself to the 30% target within the next 3 years. With that now looking more certain, the UK's green energy future looks much more stable - and so enticing to potential investors.

The vote was 44 in favor, with only 14 against, plus one abstention. That means the resolution has a good chance of becoming EU legislation, when it is passed on for a vote in the Parliament on June 23rd. It was put forward by Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhou, who stressed the decision was good for both tackling global warming, and for giving a shot to the EU's economy.

He said ''the European Parliament's position has been shifting over the last year. There is now broad support for a 30% reduction target and a growing realization that ambitious climate policies are in Europe's own economic interest.'' The resolution stresses that perceived economic benefit, which will translate from a spur to the development of green industry. A report cited by the resolution sees 6 million green jobs as being created, across the EU, if the target is stuck to.

There are a couple of flies in the ointment however. Firstly, the target only commits to a 25% in domestic emissions - those that occur from within the EU's state boundaries. That means half of the proposed raised target, 5%, can be met by offsets purchased elsewhere. And secondly, the carbon accounting rules remain tied to 'point of emission', rather than 'point of consumption'.

As a result, consumer goods made in China, for EU citizens, won't have their emissions included in the EU's totals. This allows the EU the option of continuing to 'export' a greater share of its emissions - something that has helped the EU to achieve a big chunk of its emissions progress to date. With China failing to put forward a target as concrete as the EU is doing, the passing of the 'carbon' buck is a real possibility.