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Climate kamikaze

26 May 2010

5:10 PM

26 May 2010

5:10 PM

Several months ago, European leaders went to Copenhagen to save the planet. China, India
and Brazil on the other hand went to the climate negotiations in Denmark to showcase the changed distribution of power in the world.

Unsurprisingly, the Europeans came home empty-handed, shut out of the key negotiations and powerless despite what was meant to be a standard-setting promise of 20 percent cut in the EU’s greenhouse
gas emissions. The US and the rising powers struck a non-binding deal, the value of which is still being determined.


Reading today’s cover story in The Times, the lesson the eco-friendly EU Commission seems to have drawn from this
experience is that 20 percent emission cuts were not enough; the EU has to put sharper emissions cuts on the table "to inspire other countries to follow suit".

Really? That strikes me as the most naïve kind of thinking. Worse still, it is costly naivety given the likely £33 billion price tag. Cuts of 20 percent were hard enough, particularly in
an economic crisis. Many analysts thought them unrealistic. 30 percent cuts seem near-impossible and, in any case, very costly in tems of jobs, and growth. True, any adjustment is bound to be
costly and will be made up in the longer-term when Europe seizes the green economy. I recently spoke to Lord Jay, the former head of the Foreign Office and who sits on a number of corporate boards;
he was adamant that businesses expect and are preparing for large-scale change.  

But I still struggle to see how upping the EU’s cuts by 10 percent will work to induce change in the US, India and China, where it will really have to happen.  When a colleague of mine asked a
senior Indian climate negotiator what he thought of the idea of Europeans offering deeper cuts, he said he thought it was an excellent idea – as it would militate against India having to take tough
action itself. Europe’s largesse precludes that of others rather than encouraging action.

Now I want to stop man-made climate change as much as the next person. But the idea this can be done by the EU imposing such self-denying policies as a 30 percent cut or that the EU can lead the
world by example is problematic to say the least.


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