EU’s environment commissioner wants fresh policy

BRUSSELS – The European Union has to look at what science is saying about climate change and tailor its policies accordingly, the EU’s environment chief said yesterday after a UN report warned humans are heating the planet. Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Environment Program, said the EU goal of limiting temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels was «almost redundant» after the findings of the report. EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, reacting to those comments, said the bloc was working to achieve the 2 degrees goal but would take into account the report’s conclusions. «Of course we have to take into account the findings of the (UN) and formulate our policy accordingly,» he told Reuters by telephone from Paris. «We have to look at what science is recommending to us.» The EU is considered a leader in the fight against global warming. Last month the executive European Commission said the 27-nation bloc should commit to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels and as much as 30 percent if other developed nations join in. Dimas issued a statement yesterday calling for an «urgent start» to international talks on an agreement that would carry on after the first period of the Kyoto Protocol concludes at the end of 2012. «It is now more urgent than ever that the international community gets down to serious negotiations on a comprehensive new worldwide agreement to stop global warming,» he said in the statement. The EU is expected to push developed nations, including the United States, to sign up to a 30 percent emissions cut by 2020 as part of those talks. Yesterday’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN panel, said the global average temperature would likely rise by a further 1.8 to 4.0 degrees Celsius this century if more action is not taken to reduce emissions. Environmental group Greenpeace said the UN report showed that the EU’s 2 degree Celsius goal was the correct one. «It’s not redundant. It’s the right target and now we have to make sure that it’s met,» said Mahi Sideridou, Greenpeace climate policy director. She said EU heads of state and government had the chance to support that objective by agreeing ambitious climate change goals at their meeting next month. «If they don’t make the right decisions now, the 2 degree target might be redundant because they will not be doing enough to meet it,» she said. Dimas reiterated that the 2 degrees goal had the support of EU nations. «Two degrees is the objective that has been set by our European Council,» he said. «Our measures are going in this direction.» The bloc’s key tool to battle climate change is its landmark emissions trading scheme in which companies buy and sell the right to emit carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, based on limits set by national governments.