EU pledge on emissions 'unambitious'

The European Union's pledge on the amount it will cut its emissions by 2020 is "woefully unambitious" and could easily be doubled as part of efforts to avert a climate catastrophe, environmentalists have said.

The European Union's pledge on the amount it will cut its emissions by 2020 is "woefully unambitious" and could easily be doubled as part of efforts to avert a climate catastrophe, environmentalists have said.

The EU has promised to unilaterally cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, or by 30 per cent if other countries take comparable action under a new climate deal set to be thrashed out in Copenhagen in the next few weeks.

But a study by the Stockholm Environment Institute showed Europe could cut its emissions by 40 per cent in 2020 and by 90 per cent by 2050 - which scientists warn is the level of reductions necessary from rich nations to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The EU could meet the increased targets by a major shift from fossil fuels to renewable power, increases in energy efficiency and changes to lifestyles such as more use of public transport, the research said.

By mid century, wind power could generate more than half (55 per cent) of the continent's electricity and public transport could be boosted with car journeys accounting for just 43 per cent of trips - down from 75 per cent of journeys in 2005.

Some 80 per cent of flights within Europe under 1,000km (600 miles) could switch to rail by 2050, the report commissioned by Friends of the Earth suggested.

Efforts such as this could make the carbon footprint of the average European eight times smaller by mid century than they are today.

In the wake of the study, Friends of the Earth said Europe should up its target to cut its emissions by 40 per cent, without the use of "offsetting" in which polluters pay for poorer countries to develop clean technology such as wind farms.

Implementing the changes necessary would cost around 1.94 trillion Euro (£1.76 trillion) over the next decade.

Dr Charles Heaps, lead author of the report, said: "Our analysis shows that deep cuts in emissions can be achieved in Europe at reasonable cost between now and 2050, even with rather conservative assumptions about technological improvement.

"The scale and speed of changes required may seem daunting, and indeed it will require a mobilisation of Europe's economies, but the potential costs of inaction are so large that doing nothing presents a far more implausible and dangerous future pathway for Europe."

Mike Childs, head of climate change at Friends of the Earth, said: "Our research clearly shows that the cuts the EU has offered ahead of vital UN talks in Copenhagen next week are woefully unambitious and inadequate."

And he said: "Europe has a responsibility to lead by cutting emissions first and fast, and to provide cold, hard cash to ensure that developing countries can grow cleanly and adapt to the effects already causing suffering and misery for millions."

The study estimates that even with ambitious efforts to cut emissions from rich countries, some 150 to 450 billion euro (£140bn to £410bn) will be needed per year by 2020 to help poor countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change and develop their economies without increasing their pollution.

That equates to less than three euro (£2.70) a day per person, according to the research.

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