The EU is one of the largest economic and political entities in the world, with 493 million people and a combined GDP of $14.2 trillion in 2006. The Union is a single market with a common trade policy, a Common Agricultural/Fisheries Policy, and a Regional policy to assist poorer regions.

In the study from UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report, April 2007, Europe will have to deal with the likely disappearance of skiing, more heat waves and an increasing flash flood – but not starvation. In the richer continents the effects, at least in the short term, will not be as severe, and will be easier to defend against climate change. Europe will have to deal with the likely disappearance of skiing, more heatwaves and an increase in flash flooding - but not starvation. 1

In Europe there will be more intense winter precipitation, river flooding, and other hazards; increased summer heat waves and melting of mountain glaciers; greater water stress in southern regions; intensifying regional climatic differences; greater biotic stress, causing shifts in flora; and tourism shift from Mediterranean region. 2

The European Union is at the forefront of international efforts to combat climate change and has played a key role in the development of the two major treaties addressing the issue, the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, agreed in 1997.

Monitoring data and projections indicate that the 15 European Union members at the time of the EU's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in 2002 (EU-15) will reach their Kyoto Protocol target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. This requires emissions in 2008-2012 to be 8% below 1990 levels.

However, Kyoto is only a first step. Ambitious action to reduce global emissions is needed after 2012, when Kyoto's targets expire, in order to limit global warming to 2°C. In January 2007 the European Commission set out proposals and options for achieving this in its Communication "Limiting Global Climate Change to 2 degrees Celsius: The way ahead for 2020 and beyond" The key targets in the Communication, as well as the broad thrust of the integrated energy and climate change strategy of which it forms part, were endorsed by EU leaders at their summit in Brussels on 8-9 March 2007.

With the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol closing in 2012, the EU has launched discussions on its future long-term strategy to fight global warming. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport and making continued use of market-based mechanisms such as emissions trading are among the main elements of the proposed strategy. But the first and biggest challenge will be to draw all major world emitters - including the US and China - into a binding pollution-cutting scheme.

The Kyoto Protocol - a binding addendum to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - requires industrialised countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 5% compared to their 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. The EU has committed to a reduction of 8% under this first commitment period.

Europe has been widely praised for taking a global leadership role in fighting climate change. Launched in 2000, the European Climate Change Programme (ECCP) sought to deliver on the EU's Kyoto commitment by taking initiatives in wide-ranging areas, including the promotion of renewable sources of energy and energy-saving measures for buildings and cars.

But the jewel in the crown of Europe's climate change policy is the EU emissions trading scheme (EU-ETS), which began on 1 January 2005.

On 9 February 2005, the Commission proposed a strategy for the EU's future climate change policy after 2012 entitled "Wining the battle against climate change" The strategy suggests focusing on the following "core elements":

• Persuading all major world emitters to commit to a binding scheme, including the United States and rapidly emerging economies such as China and India
• Including more sectors in emissions reductions, including transport (aviation, maritime) as well as tackling the deforestation which increases global warming in some regions
• Promoting climate-friendly technologies
• Market-based instruments such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme
• Adaptation policies in Europe and globally to deal with the inescapable impacts of climate change

However, the Commission preferred not to define precise targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in its draft, arguing that the paper was only designed to "structure the future negotiations of the EU with its global partners". This issue will undoubtedly come back to the fore of global climate negotiations in the years to come.

At a meeting in March 2005, the EU Council of Ministers went further than the Commission by suggesting ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets (15-30% by 2020 and 60-80% by 2050). The ministers also requested a global approach to the issue and invited the Commission to study the costs and benefits of future action (or inaction) as well as the competitiveness aspects of the future EU strategy.

The summit of EU leaders on 22-23 March 2005 only agreed to flexible targets for 2020. The summit conclusions stated that a 15-30% cut in greenhouse gas emissions "should be considered" for 2020, but only "in the light of future work on how the objective can be achieved, including the cost-benefit aspect". At the insistence of Germany and Austria, heads of state and government did not mention any precise targets after 2020, refusing to take on the 60-80% cuts proposed by environment ministers for 2050.

Signatories to the Kyoto Protocol agreed in December 2005 to start negotiations to extend the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012. An agreement was also found to launch talks under the broader UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to which non-Kyoto signatories, including Australia and the United States are also parties.

Over the past years, environmental groups have generally praised the EU for taking a global leadership role in fighting climate change. But the discussions over Europe's future climate change policy have triggered mixed reaction from NGOs. Some, like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, have respectively criticised the Commission and EU leaders for not setting clear enough reduction targets for the post 2012 period. Others such as the WWF have encouraged the EU for setting the stage for global international climate negotiations. WWF continues to lobby for energy-efficiency and clean energy production means as its preferred route to simultaneously "combat climate change, increase the EU's energy security and create a clean and efficient economy".3

Notes

1. The Independent, ‘How the worst effects of climate change will be felt by the poorest,’ 7 April 2007
http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/climate_change/article2430118.ece

2. United Nations Foundations, ‘Confronting Climate Change: Avoiding the unmanageable and managing the unavoidable,’ February 2007

3. EU post-2012 climate change policy, Thursday 5 April 2007
http://www.euractiv.com/en/sustainability/eu-post-2012-climate-change-policy/article-137310

 


The United Sates, with over 300 million people, is the third largest by population, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of over $13 trillion, which makes it the largest national economy in the world. American society is the product of large-scale immigration; the US may be described as both a melting pot. Home to a complex social structure as well as a wide array of household arrangements, the U.S. is one of the world's most ethnically and socially diverse nations.

The United States is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs), accounting for roughly 25 percent of global emissions. In North America, due to climate change, they are expecting reduced springtime snowpack; changing river flows; shifting ecosystems, with loss of niche environments; rising sea level and increased intensity and energy of Atlantic hurricanes increase coastal flooding and storm damage; more frequent and intense heat waves and wildfires; improved agriculture and forest productivity for a few decades. 1

No strategy to address global climate change can ultimately succeed without substantial and permanent reductions in U.S. emissions. Voluntary efforts in a number of sectors over the past several years have failed to curb the overall growth in U.S. GHG emissions. A number of policy options are available to secure additional emissions reductions. However, to be effective and affordable, a long-term emissions reduction program must couple mandatory GHG reductions with technology development and market mechanisms.

To date, efforts to reduce U.S. GHG emissions have been limited almost exclusively to voluntary activities at the federal, state, local, and corporate level. Many of these efforts were spurred by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which set a non-binding target of reducing emissions from industrialized countries to 1990 levels by 2000.

Though some voluntary efforts have resulted in significant emissions reductions – some companies, for instance, have cut emissions 10 percent or more – in the aggregate, they have not succeeded in curbing the overall growth in U.S. emissions. While technology has improved the energy intensity of products and processes over the last 50 years, this greater efficiency has been outpaced by increased demand driven by economic expansion, population growth, and changing consumer preferences. U.S. emissions rose roughly 12 percent over the past decade, and are projected to continue rising for the foreseeable future.

Voluntary programs can make an important contribution to a domestic climate change program, and can provide valuable experience for designing future efforts, but they cannot stimulate the broad engagement that will be necessary to achieve the level of emissions reductions that will ultimately be required.

Climate change is a long-term challenge that will require sustained global action and investment over many decades. Ideally, a national strategy would be guided by a specific long term emissions goal. It would also couple short- and long-term measures – and both supply and demand elements – to signal markets to begin the transition toward that ultimate objective. More specifically, short-term measures are needed to improve energy efficiency and encourage the use of lower-carbon fuels; long-term measures are needed to encourage sustained investment in development of the technology and infrastructure needed to facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy. Further, because energy consumption is an important component of GHG emissions, any domestic energy policy program must be geared toward long-term GHG emissions reductions.

A domestic strategy ultimately must reflect any international commitments by the United States. However, its design and implementation should proceed now even if the United States is not yet prepared to enter into an international agreement. As domestic and international programs evolve, close coordination between them is critical. This is especially important for companies that operate and compete both domestically and abroad, and for U.S.-based companies that sell products abroad, as they will be subject to rules dealing with climate change in other countries. In addition, coordination is necessary to maximise the effectiveness of emissions trading and other flexibility mechanisms now being developed at the international level.

The cost of meeting a given emissions target can vary by orders of magnitude depending on the approach taken. In general, the most cost-effective approaches allow emitters flexibility in deciding how to meet a target or performance level; provide early direction so targets can be anticipated and factored into major capital and investment decisions; and employ market-based mechanisms such as emissions trading to achieve reductions where they cost the least. To ease the transition and enlist the broadest possible participation, early targets should be realistic and achievable without stranding major capital investments or imposing undue economic hardships. These could be followed over time by more stringent constraints that allow for the turnover of existing capital stock and the development of new breakthrough technologies and innovative measures for reducing GHG emissions.

The possible elements of a comprehensive domestic strategy that couples short- and long-term measures should include elements – some of which are voluntary, and others mandatory. These should include:

• improve the tracking and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions;
• promote new technologies and practices; and,
• provide a foundation upon which to secure long-term emissions reductions.

While each of these objectives can be pursued in a number of different ways, an effective strategy must address all three.

Tracking and Reporting Greenhouse Gas Emissions

No effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions can succeed without the accurate measuring and tracking of emissions. Improved tracking and reporting of emissions reductions could provide the basis for government assurances that companies will not be penalised for their early reductions under a future climate policy. Public disclosure of emissions data can also serve as a powerful incentive for reductions.

Promoting Clean Technologies and Practices

The ultimate success of a climate change strategy will hinge on the timely development and deployment of technologies that over time can substantially reduce the carbon intensity of the overall U.S. economy – including industry, the transportation sector, and residential/commercial activity. In the short term, improved technologies can significantly enhance energy efficiency, provide opportunities to store – or sequester – carbon, and expand use of lower-carbon fuels (such as natural gas). In the long term, new technologies will be needed to develop non-fossil energy sources such as biofuels, wind, hydrogen, and solar, and provide opportunities for more permanent forms of sequestration.

Securing Emissions Reductions

An especially critical element of a domestic climate change program will be the design of a market-based GHG emissions management framework to ensure significant long-term reductions in emissions. Also, an effective program ultimately will entail some form of mandatory requirements. The approaches that follow include voluntary activities that could be implemented in advance of, or alongside, mandatory emissions reductions:

Enter into agreements with companies willing to make significant, enforceable commitments to achieve net GHG emissions reductions in lieu of future GHG control requirements.

Conclusion

To address global climate change effectively, the United States must actively pursue real reductions in GHG emissions at home and abroad. The steps outlined here chart a course for a sound, credible, and cost-effective domestic program. Starting now on a path to reduce these emissions is necessary both to meet the environmental objective of moderating human interference with the climate system and to avoid the need for more costly measures in the future. 2

Notes

1. United Nations Foundations, ‘Confronting Climate Change: Avoiding the unmanageable and managing the unavoidable,’ February 2007
2. PEW Centre on Global Climate Change, ‘The U.S. domestic response to climate change: Key elements of a prospective program,