Thursday, March 5, 2015

In Case You Missed It ...

Last week the European Union, the world's largest economic entity, set out its goals for carbon reduction between now and 2050. You may have missed the story--it got minimal notice in the Times, and a bare mention in the Guardian. And the announcement is provisional: the EU Commission's draft needs to be reviewed by the 28 member states, who need to determine their national objectives, before a final version is submitted to the UN COP 21 process by the end of this month. Still, a few elements of this version might be worth the world's notice:

  • First, the overall target: 60% reduction of carbon emissions by 2050 (in relation to 2010 levels), a rephrasing of the previous goal (50% of 1990 levels), and thus a disappointingly low threshold, not adequate, in the view of environmental groups, to reach the global goal of a 2 degrees C increase in global temperature this century.
  • Second, the politics: by getting its draft out early, the EU is presumably trying to get the two other major entities,  the US and China, to commit sooner and more specifically to goals which, aggregated, would drive the larger process by their overwhelming size. Europe is the 3rd largest emitter, not big enough to leverage the global process by itself, but more amenable by far than the two larger polluters.
  • Finally--and this is the real story, buried in fine print--the EU is calling for a legally binding protocol, with UN enforcement and 5-year monitoring, of whatever agreements are put on the table in Paris. Will this sit well with Senator Imhofe or the Chinese Central Committee? Maybe not, but it is a useful conversation to be launching now, 9 months before the Paris agreement risks being dispersed in generalities and good wishes.

Now the public sphere, here especially and wherever else it can, needs to take up that conversation, if the 'shaming' or national peer pressure mechanisms are going to work. Otherwise, we should all be working on those massive walls to keep out the seawater and desperate climate migrants ...

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