Sumario: 16 July 2008, Brussels - Speech by Stavros Dimas, Commissioner for Environment, "Young global leaders are key to tackling climate change" at a Meeting of Young Global Leaders at the European Parliament
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It's a pleasure for me to speak to such a distinguished crowd of young global leaders about what is perhaps the greatest and most urgent global challenge of this century - climate change.
As a slightly less young global leader who has spent a considerable part of the last few years dealing with climate change, I hope to see more young talented people like you join these efforts. We need leaders in all walks of life to show the world not only that climate change is a problem that can be solved, but that there are benefits and opportunities to be gained from doing so.
I was happy to discover the innovative actions you are taking within your own organisation. The "Earth Love Movement" you have created is a welcome tool to help create awareness of the opportunities involved in pursuing climate-friendly initiatives. And though some people could be misled by the title of your "Book of Love," the examples of good practice it contains will have opened the eyes of readers to the possibilities of doing something for the climate at low or zero cost.
The world is in strong need of more actions of this kind. The alarming projections made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its Fourth Assessment Report last year are all too clear. Unless we drastically reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures are likely to soar by up to 4 degrees Celsius by the end of this century, and in the worst case scenario by over 6 degrees.
Even the lowest increase projected would push the world's temperature more than 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level. This would take us into the danger zone where irreversible and potentially catastrophic changes to the global environment become far more likely.
But these changes are not inevitable. The world has a choice to make. It can either choose a strategy of non-action that would allow climate change to continue unabated until it reaches devastating levels. Or we can bring climate change under control before it is too late by making a collective quantum shift towards more carbon-efficient production and consumption patterns.
From an economic point of view there's no doubt which strategy is the better one. Lord Stern's review of the economics of climate change estimates the costs of non-action at between 5 and a staggering 20% of global GDP annually. This is many times the cost of the policies and measures that would prevent dangerous climate change.
To succeed in bringing climate change under control, a global effort is required. Last week's agreement among G8 leaders on the need to cut global emissions by at least 50% by 2050 was welcome progress, but this is only a first step. We cannot wait to take action. What is needed is a comprehensive and ambitious international agreement with concrete measure in the short- and medium-term and with clear reduction targets for developed countries for 2020.
It is largely thanks to Europe's leadership that negotiations on such an agreement are now well under way. At the Bali conference last December, the EU succeeded in convincing other Parties not only to start these negotiations and to agree to an ambitious roadmap to guide them, but also to conclude them at the end of 2009 in Copenhagen. The importance of this process cannot be overstated if we are to avoid a crippling environmental and economic burden on future generations.
Developed nations should lead by example. The European Council of March 2007 set out the European Union's leadership vision clearly for the world to see. The EU committed to two new targets for reducing EU emissions from 1990 levels by 2020. The first is a cut of 30% that is conditional on other developed countries committing to comparable efforts under the future global agreement. The second is a reduction of at least 20%, independently of what other countries do.
To achieve these targets, concrete actions are needed that will change the relative prices of goods and incite behavioural and technological change in favour of a low-carbon economy. The economic benefits are obvious, and this is even more the case with today's high energy prices. The economic impact of rising oil prices can only be efficiently addressed by structural measures that make Europe less dependent on fossil fuels. The targets agreed by the European Council will cut Europe's oil and gas imports, thereby increasing energy security and reducing our import bills. They will make our economies more energy efficient, develop alternative sources of energy and provide the basis for the deployment of new technologies.
An ambitious EU climate policy will also stimulate economic growth and job creation through innovation in what are important markets for the future: wind turbines, carbon capture and storage, smart grids, distributed generation, efficient cars, solar heating and cooling, and passive houses. Using resources and energy efficiently is essential for Europe's future competitiveness.
The climate and energy package of legislative proposals that the Commission put forward in January is intended to implement the targets set by the Member States. Central to the package is a revamp of the EU's emission trading system (ETS), the largest such system in the world. The ETS sets a price on CO2 emissions by granting allocations to all companies and setting a cap for emissions in line with the EU's greenhouse gas reduction targets. This allows companies to decide whether they reduce emissions or pay for reductions in other companies by buying allowances.
EU emission trading has been a pioneer in harnessing the power of the market to incentivise cuts in carbon emissions. It is a key tool for achieving emission reductions most cost-effectively. Since its launch in 2005 the ETS has rapidly established itself as the main driver of EU climate policy. We have learned a lot in that time and now we are proposing to strengthen the system and make it more efficient.
Let me highlight some key aspects of our proposal: