Some 11,000 climate delegates are meeting in Poland's western city of Poznan, seeking agreement upon new post-Kyoto climate goals, to be finalized in Copenhagen by the end of next year. Ministers will consider proposals for cutting rich-world emissions to between 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and for compensating tropical countries that conserve carbon-capturing rainforests. But with a worldwide economic crisis and the European Union's climate policy in disarray, chances are small for quick agreement that reduces emissions.
Simultaneously, the European Union summit is attempting to reach consensus upon the so-called '20-20-20' proposals, which by 2020 seek a 20 percent cut in greenhouse gas (higher if others agree), a 20 percent cut in energy consumed and 20 percent use of renewable energy. The package requires unanimous approval of all 27 governments at an EU summit in Brussels on December 11-12, and would constitute Europe's unified position for the current climate negotiations.
Sadly, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk are actively seeking to weaken these modest and realistic medium-term goals, which can be built upon, on narrow economic self-interests. Italy has threatened to veto new European greenhouse gas limits, demanding the package not raise electricity prices by an expected 17%. Poland has threatened a veto unless changes are made to shield the coal-based Polish economy. Both want to continue giving industry free permits to emit carbon dioxide, which they can then trade, rather than having to auction them, as is foreseen under the EU proposal. And Europe's renewable energy targets in general include agrofuel goals which threaten rainforests and food security.
Polish and Italian playing of politics with the global climate comes despite indications -- from the Arctic to Australia, and all points in between -- that global climate change is already abrupt and deadly. Yet the extent of the damage to Earth's biosphere and civilization, and whether they can ever recover, will be determined by what is done now. It is ironic Poland is hosting the current climate meetings, where their own environment minister told delegates that without concerted action to halt greenhouse gas emissions there would be "global threats of great intensity: increasing ocean levels, huge droughts and floods, cyclones with increasingly more destructive power, pandemics of tropical disease [and] a dramatic decline in biodiversity".
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is going to be costly, and require personal and societal sacrifice. Without a deal at the Brussels summit, the European Union is unlikely to reach consensus prior to the Copenhagen conference. Italy and Poland must be called upon to end their parochial climate change obstructionism -- putting the interests of global citizenry and an operable biosphere, above continued cheap coal based electricity that is killing us all.
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Dumbfounded in Poznan by Italy and Poland's Narrow Economic Nationalism
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