The European Union risks losing ground in the fight against climate change as it tries to shore up energy security in response to concerns about dependence on Russian gas, said John Prescott, the bloc’s lead negotiator for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
The annexation of Crimea by Russia has pushed the issue of energy security to the top of the European political agenda as the 28-nation bloc devises plans to cut reliance on natural gas imports from Russia’s OAO Gazprom. That risks overshadowing the debate about cutting greenhouse gases, according to Prescott, former deputy prime minister of the U.K.
“The great danger is it’s all becoming energy security,” Prescott said. The meetings will aim to isolate Russia, and “will have nothing to say on climate change.”
The EU’s energy dependency rate is set to rise to 80 percent by 2035 from 60 percent, according to the International Energy Agency. Russian gas met about 30 percent of EU consumption last year, according to Gazprom. The European Commission on May 28 presented a draft energy security strategy that EU heads of state will discuss during two days of meeting starting June 26 in Brussels.
Juergen Lefevere, a negotiator for the European Commission at the latest round of UN climate talks that began yesterday in Bonn, said the EU has set out a clear timeline to decide on new climate goals.
“I haven’t seen that risk materialize in any of the EU discussions that I’ve been aware of so far,” Lefevere said in an interview. “There is a balance between energy security concerns and climate concerns, and that balance is very carefully kept.”
The bloc in October aims to decide on an energy and climate-change package laying out targets through 2030. The commission, the bloc’s regulatory arm, in January proposed cutting emissions by 40 percent by 2030 from 1990 levels, up from a 2020 target of 20 percent.
At the same time, a bloc of eastern and central European nations, led by coal-reliant Poland, say they won’t support those targets without a “fair” distribution of the effort.
The EU cut emissions by almost 19 percent between 1990 and 2012, exceeding its international target of an 8 percent reduction, according to a document distributed yesterday by the EU in Bonn. It’s set to exceed its 2020 pledge, delivering a more than 24 percent reduction, it said.
Prescott, now a member of the upper chamber of parliament, the House of Lords, spoke ahead of the World Summit of Legislators, a meeting he’s attending in Mexico City of more than 400 lawmakers from around the world who will gather tomorrow for three days of discussions on climate and environment policy.