The Times’ EU climate targets ‘exclusive’ is gibberish

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It’s all gibberish, but where Europe is concerned, anything goes. Of all the myths published about the EU, I wish the one on the front page of today’s Times were true.



It reports – “exclusively” – that the European commission will raise its target for greenhouse gas cuts today, from 20% by 2020, to 30%:



“The European commission is determined to press ahead with the cuts despite the financial turmoil gripping the bloc, even though it would require Britain and other EU member states to impose far tougher financial penalties on their industries than are being considered by other large economies.”


The “surprise new plan”, it says, commits “Britain and the rest of the EU to the most ambitious targets in the world.”




I phoned the commission this morning. I was told that the story is “totally wrong. The position is exactly the same as it was.” This means that the EU will stick to its 20% target until there’s a legally binding global agreement to replace the Kyoto protocol. At this point the target will be raised to 30%. This was all reported in a Guardian story two weeks ago and the FT has covered it before too.


It was the plan long before the Copenhagen summit in December. But as no legally binding agreement was struck then, and as it’s unlikely to happen in Mexico at the end of this year either, there’s no immediate prospect of the EU’s target being raised.




All the EC has done is to write an analysis paper looking at what the consequences – for European industry, trade policy and other matters – would be if such a target were to be adopted. This is the routine business of any civil service: produce analyses and impact statements for possible policies, before they are adopted. The only surprise is that it hasn’t been done before.




But as the Times story shows, there are good reasons why the tougher target should be adopted, regardless of whether a global deal is struck. The recession, or stagnation, or whatever it is now, has already slashed emissions in Europe. A tougher target would bank those accidental cuts and prevent them from making a mockery of the Emissions Trading Scheme, as they do today. The decline in greenhouse gas production ensures that the carbon price remains so low that it won’t stimulate investment in energy saving and alternative technologies. Unless the targets are tightened, the EU emissions cap will remain so loose as to be all but useless.




And while the tougher target waits on a binding global treaty, to some extent a binding global treaty waits on a tougher EU target. When the world’s biggest economic block shows that it means business, poorer nations will be more inclined to follow.




Anyway, we dream on, assisted by the Times’s nonsense.