EU climate target "credible and achievable"

European Commission predicts net benefits from action to meet Kyoto targets

The European Union's planned position for the international Kyoto climate change talks in December is "credible and achievable," according to an unpublished European Commission communication (policy paper). All industrialised countries could cut emissions of the main greenhouse gases by 15% by 2010, the Commission says.

The paper puts the annual costs for the EU of meeting the 15% target at Ecu15-35bn, a figure certain to be questioned by industry groups. But it also suggests that the costs could be cut by as much as a half through efficient implementation policies. Finally, the paper estimates that the monetary value of environmental benefits accruing from implementation of the policy could be Ecu55bn or more, easily outweighing the costs.

Due to be published in October, the communication takes a wide-ranging look at the practical implications of EU climate change policies developed in the run-up to the Kyoto meeting under the UN climate change convention. It describes how the EU can meet its emissions reduction targets. In doing so, it also seeks to deflect recent criticism by industrialised countries that the targets are over-ambitious and will be too expensive to achieve (ENDS Daily 28 July).

A 15% emissions reduction by 2010 "can be achieved without disruption of the economy, at low or zero costs," according to the paper. This "should help to convince other industrialised countries...that their economic development will not be impaired by such a reduction target."

Turning to practical measures to achieve the target, the paper picks out transport as having the most to contribute to reducing emissions. Transport carbon dioxide emissions are forecast to increase by nearly 40% between 1990 and 2010, it says. Voluntary improvements in motor vehicle efficiency and policies to shift transport from road and air to rail are needed to slow down or reverse the trend. In particular, the Commission calculates that achieving an average fuel consumption by cars of 5 litres per 100km would cut their carbon dioxide emissions by 15%.

The Commission has already published a policy paper on how the energy sector can help meet the EU's climate change objectives (ENDS Daily 15 May). A detailed paper on the transport sector's contribution is expected before the end of the year.

Aside from energy and transport, the Commission's paper stresses that households can play a big part in reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions. The domestic sector is the largest user of electricity, and the second largest single source of carbon dioxide emissions after transport. Energy efficiency could be improved by up to 30%, the Commission estimates, through energy efficiency standards, labelling schemes and improved building insulation.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111.

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