Thursday, July 9, 2009

The European Union should "put an ambitious set of proposals on the table" at the UN climate change meeting in Copenhagen in December, a highly respected EU think tank said last week.

The Centre for European Reform (CER) said bluntly that if the EU does not take the lead in Copenhagen, "the negotiations could end in a stand-off."

While the U.S. largely limps along (the passage by the U.S. House of the Waxman-Markey bill represents some movement, but the details in the bill include a mind boggling array of handouts) in the climate change policy debate, it is interesting to see how European thought leaders -- including the CER -- view the issue:
"The EU has led the world in its response to climate change. And although the election of Barack Obama to the White House means more constructive U.S. engagement, there are few signs that Washington is prepared to take the lead. As a result, the onus to bridge the differences between rich and poor countries will rest with Europe. In an ideal scenario, the EU will put an ambitious set of proposals on the table; other developed countries will follow suit, showing that they are prepared to shoulder prime responsibility for saving the world's climate; and the developing world will then get on board."
However, the CER cautioned that in order for the EU to be credible at Copenhagen it needs to strengthen its own policies:
"The EU is relying on carbon pricing to encourage investment in green technologies. But carbon prices under the EU's emissions trading scheme are nowhere near high enough to provide business with the necessary incentive to make such investments. Unless companies start investing in new technologies now, Europe will not be able to bring about a permanent reduction in emissions. Bleak economic prospects (which means less output and few emissions) mean that prices are set to remain weak over the medium term -- unless action is taken to boost them. The [Swedish presidency of the EU] should recommend tightening the emissions caps or introducing price floors for carbon permits."

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