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EU Condemned to Be First With UN Carbon Pledge, Delbeke Says

The European Union is “condemned” to be among the first to communicate its proposed climate targets for a global treaty to take effect in 2020, according to the European Commission.

“What we are doing today is outlining in our preparations for 2030 how we can reduce emissions without doing harm to economic growth,” Jos Delbeke, the director-general for climate at the European Commission, the 28 nation bloc’s regulator, said in Brussels Dec. 10. “That’s where Europe is a laboratory for what the world at large will do. I think that is perhaps the best contribution we can bring to the world.”

The EU is pushing for an “ambitious, comprehensive and legally binding” agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which runs through 2020 and only caps climate pollution by developed countries, according to its website. Nations agreed at United Nations-sponsored talks in Warsaw last month to submit to the global body their proposed national contributions to a new climate pact by the first quarter of 2015.

Proposed national actions need to be published by early 2015 in order to give countries time to assess the level of ambition of the combined contributions before they negotiate a new treaty in Paris at the end of that year, Delbeke said.

“We cannot have a situation where everybody is waiting for Godot, because Godot will not show up,” Delbeke said, referring to the play by Samuel Beckett in which the title character never appears. “I think we are condemned to come first.”

Binding Deal

At the annual climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009, nations failed to reach a binding deal on climate action, and a set of voluntary actions was taken note of by the conference, rather than adopted as a formal decision.

“In Copenhagen time was very short; leaders came with their pledges, their promises and then nobody knew exactly how to locate the promises and pledges into an overall negotiation,” Delbeke said. “That’s why for 2015 we would like to have all these pledges, promises, contributions, at least six months before we enter into negotiations, to have better preparation.”

A new climate change treaty will likely not include binding targets, as some nations may not be able or willing to ratify an agreement that sets binding caps for countries, Delbeke said.

“This is a way to cater for the problems that our friends from the U.S. have,” he said. “When we negotiate an international deal they have to pass it through Congress, so this may be a way of sorting out that hurdle before a deal comes on the table.”

The U.S. Senate, which is responsible for ratifying international treaties, passed a resolution in 1997 that it would not ratify the Kyoto Protocol as it did not set binding carbon caps for both developed and developing countries.

Negotiating a treaty that allows countries to make voluntary contributions to a global emissions target rather than one that establishes mandatory goals recognizes that “we are no longer in a world of binding” targets, Delbeke said.

Contributions to a future climate agreement may take the form of national climate laws that are then included in a UN pact, he said.

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