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Tussle For EU On Climate Change?

  • April 14th, 2007
  • Posted by Emily Balfe

meade.jpgA leading EU commentator has warned the European Union will be hard pressed to secure the support of other major emission-producing countries in its world-leading climate change program.

Emily Balfe spoke with Geoff Meade, Europe Editor for the British Press Association.

The European Union is spearheading the global effort to prevent climate change: at a summit of its 27 heads of government early last month, new and binding laws were authorised requiring Europe to cut CO2 emissions by 20 percent before 2020.

They also handed their executive body, the European Commission, the power to raise this target to 30%, providing similar commitments are made in the United States, China, India and Russia.

But Geoff Meade, one of the longest-serving commentators in the European Commission’s Brussels press gallery, said (10.4.07) it was unlikely a global consensus would be reached.

“From my experience, in reality, I don’t think it does have that clout, because so far the Americans have not come on board with the Kyoto accord,” Mr Meade said.

“And there’s every sign that the Chinese and the Indians are rebelling against the suggestion that they should be doing what the West is now trying to do, on the grounds that they’re only now becoming industrialized and don’t see why the rich tap that flows from good trade flows and industry should be switched off just when they’re achieving that status.”

Still, Mr Meade said it was imperative for Europe to make a big effort, and maintain pressure on the rest of the world to tackle the climate change crisis.

He said it would take good governance for the EU to develop an environmental policy catering to the specific needs of all of its 27 member countries.

“Everybody knows it will only work in Europe if all 27 agree.
“Problem with that is, they may be members of the same club, but they’re members of a club that has different elements.

“Some of the newer member states are poorer, some are not rich enough to change to more environmentally friendly forms of fuel use,” he said.

Mr Meade said the need for compromise among member countries made it unlikely the 20% target would be met – but conceded a weak European agreement would act as a better example to the rest of the world than no agreement at all.

Debate over the details of what specific reduction targets will be for EU signatory countries, and whether the richer countries such as France and Germany should pay for the conversion of less developed countries, has highlighted demands for a rewriting of the EU rulebook.

The current EU President Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, is pushing for a new European Constitution to be implemented by 2009, consolidating and contemporising the many treaties amassed since the 1957 treaty of Rome, which formed the European Union among just six member states.

It’s hoped the new constitution will strengthen the EU both inside and out, improving internal solidarity while at the same time increasing its legitimacy to lead the world on the climate change issue.