EU urged to initiate climate change campaign

Advisory body cites lack of public awareness, transport growth, as barriers to emissions cuts

A major public awareness campaign is needed to make climate change a key political issue by 2005 if the EU's strategy to combat global warming is to be successful, one of its advisory bodies said today.

Intended to influence inter-governmental talks in June on the EU's climate change policy strategy, a report by the European Consultative Forum on Environment and Sustainable Development says the public is the "major and most difficult stakeholder" in the debate. However, "very little has been done to inform or convince" this group, which is "largely unaware and uninterested" in the issue.

Changes in public attitudes are "mandatory" to achieve reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases, the report says, since end-consumption and the transport sector each account for around one- third of the total. Under the Kyoto agreement, the 15 EU member countries have agreed to reduce their collection emissions by 8% from 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

Business and industry participation in the drive is "imperative," the report adds, since companies contribute the rest of the emissions and are major players in the research, development and transfer of cleaner technologies. It stops short of pressing for statutory measures to be imposed, however, calling instead for voluntary initiatives and negotiated long-term agreements between industry and public authorities.

The group also calls for a shift to a sustainable European transport system "to be addressed urgently" and recommends a greater emphasis on energy efficiency and renewable energy in the EU's research and development policy. A diversification of primary energy sources in favour of less environmentally harmful ones is also urged.

Finally, the forum underlines the importance of gaining the trust of developing countries by "demonstrating the EU's willingness to make serious commitments and efforts" and achieving an equitable transfer of technology and knowledge as part of the so-called "clean development mechanisms" established under the Kyoto agreement.

Formed in 1993 under the EU's fifth environmental action programme, the forum was reconstituted in 1997 to provide independent policy advice generated by representatives of business, trade unions, NGOs, local authorities and academic institutions (ENDS Daily 20 May 1997).

Follow Up:
European Consultative Forum on Environment and Sustainable Development, tel: +32 2 296 8004. References: "Forum's input to the European Union's climate policy strategy."

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