Foreign Policy Blogs

EU Summit Agreement

The big news last week was from Brussels.  The European Union Summit meeting produced a truly historic agreement on greenhouse gas reduction, renewable energy, and energy efficiency, among other things.  We'll get to some of the specifics in a moment.  First, consider what we're talking about when we talk about the European Union.  It is 490 million people in 27 countries.  It has an annual gross domestic product of about 13 trillion dollars, roughly equivalent to the United States, and just about 20% of the world total.  It receives over 40% of the world's total foreign direct investment.  Europe is a powerhouse.  So momentous agreements like this have some juice.

The Europeans fully intend to help bring the rest of the world fully on board. The Europeans actually challenge the world by saying that they will up their goal of a 20% reduction by 2020 (from 1990 levels of greenhouse gases) to 30% if others will as well.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel chaired the summit and substantially guided the negotiations.  She said:  "At international negotiations, we will offer to reduce emissions by 30% if international partners come on board."  World headlines used terms like "Europe sets benchmark," "EU Raises Bar," "EU challenges world," and "Leaders hope polluting nations will follow suit."  Will the U.S., India, East Asia and others get on board?   Good question.

So what are the terms of the agreement?

*20% cut in greenhouse gases from 1990 levels.

*20% boost in energy efficiency.

*20% total renewable energy use by 2020.

*10% target for biofuels use by 2020.

*A large-scale carbon capture and sequestration pilot, involving at least 12 projects.

*An "unbundling" of power generation and distribution activities. (This, obviously, has a lot of implications for distributed generation which we will explore here in the blog over time.)

*A "cross-border perspective" in regulating markets.

These are all admirable goals.  Merkel said she felt " no little satisfaction that today we are able to go for such ambitious and credible targets."  It is no small thing it seems to me that the EU is characterizing these targets as "credible."  I have been following this stuff for a good number of years and have long thought these sorts of initiatives could be "credible."  However, I have been chastened by the nearly utter lack of vision and will by governments.  This sort of leadership by the EU itself seems incredible to me.  But I love it. 

So, to make matters even better, the UK unveiled their climate change bill this week with 60% carbon reductions by 2050.  Tony Blair, to his credit, has been heralding the call for action for a number of years.  He championed the issue through his presidency of the G-8 in 2005 and forged an agreement then at the summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.  The UK draft legislation tracks at least one of the EU's targets in setting a 26-32% reduction by 2020.  The Environment Minister, David Miliband, even made a YouTube video to explain the bill.  The Brits have been exemplary and I will reference other of their initiatives in the near future.  Let me just here mention – and applaud – the announcement on February 27 by London's Mayor, Ken Livingstone, creating a "Climate Change Action Plan."  "Action today" read the press release, in Churchillian tones. 



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change