Climate Change: Momentum, but Few Measures
In 136 countries across the globe, following Leonardo DiCaprio, Ban-Ki-Moon, Laurent Fabius and Sting, activists marched on Sunday to put pressure on their leaders ahead of the UN Climate Summit in New York. More than 120 of them – including President Obama – turned up but no new emission targets were proposed. Glaringly absent were China’s Xi Jinping and India’s Narendra Modia, respectively leaders of the two most populous countries and the first and third carbon emitters on earth. Also conspicuously missing, Canadian and Australian Prime Ministers Stephen Harper and Tony Abbott and Russian President Putin. Despite the snubs, however, there is no question that renewed political momentum is under way for the development of global CO2 emissions reduction targets ahead of the 21st Conference of the Parties on Climate Change 2015 (COP 21) in Paris in December 2015.
On 5 June 2014, the G7 reiterated its commitment to agreeing to those targets by December 2015, closely following President Obama’s announcement that the US would aim to reduce CO2 emissions from the US power generation sector to roughly 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
In Brussels, policymakers remain focused on political jockeying. Commissioners-elect are getting ready to walk the plank at parliamentary hearings. MEPs are considering how to assert – read increase – their powers without creating an institutional crisis. Greens are accusing the new Commission of not being green enough for their liking. However, you will be hard put to find a Commission, Parliament or Council official who is not acutely aware that CO2 emission abatement will be front and centre of the policy agenda in the next five years. Notably thorny will be the revamp of the EU’s flagship and fledgling European Trading Scheme (ETS) and the progression of the proposed 2030 policy framework for climate and energy. Should an agreement be found in Paris at COP 21, Juncker’s Commission will need to implement it. No easy task considering the diversity of Member State energy mixes, policies, economic situations and priorities. On an individual basis, however, most European heavyweights have already implemented some form of emission reduction policy.
In the Energy Act 2013, the UK initiated reform of its electricity market to encourage low carbon electricity generation and to ensure security of supply. The Act created the EU’s first European Performance Standard (EPS), although excluding from its scope the country’s existing fleet of coal-fired plants. However, the 2014 Budget saw the coalition government announce that the carbon floor price would be capped at £18 per tonne from 2016 to 2020 to limit carbon leakage and avoid increasing consumer bills. As the general election nears and with EU membership bound to be high on the political agenda, the government won’t be boasting to editors about its support for Europe’s green agenda but will continue to bargain with Warsaw behind closed doors to soften the latter’s opposition to any ambitious EU-wide measures.