What is the EU environmental policy really good for?

What is the EU environmental policy really good for?

This is the case and not otherwise since the UN itself has described the steps taken so far as "insufficient" and because greenhouse gas emissions in recent decades have been such that "warming can no longer be reverse". Therefore, everything that is done from now on will be vital for the planet.

Aware of this is the President of the United States, Barack Obama, who on August 3 took a great step in this regard. Then he presented his plan to achieve a reduction in CO2 emissions, with which the rest of the world, always attentive to the movements of the leading power in any matter, put attention on the environmental agenda.

A key moment

The United Nations welcomed the US plan, but how does Obama's announcement affect Europe? What has the EU been doing in this field for years? The answers go through evaluating the current point in which we find ourselves: in the absence of half a month before the Summit begins and before the end of Obama's term.

"The announcement of the commitment to reduce emissions by the US is important since we are facing the world's first economy and the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases. That the country commits to changing the way it produces energy and promoting a transition to clean energy is a key step in the fight against the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, "Alberto Vizcaíno López, professor at the Higher Institute of the Environment, explains to El Huffington Post.

However, Vizcaíno points out an important piece of information: the fact that, from a political point of view, Obama "is late." "This may make it stay in an advertisement and not apply, especially considering the reading of the" Clean Energy Plan "as a market failure to provide solutions to environmental problems and the need for intervention administrative to guarantee the sustainable development and the health of the people ".

Joan Francesc Peris, spokesperson for Los Verdes, goes further: "Obama's proposal is positive in the sense that the US, along with China, India and other countries, had always been the main opponents to be specified in real, verifiable figures, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, especially CO2. However, the proposed reduction of 32% of CO2 in thermoelectric plants for 2030 is clearly insufficient if we observe the real increase in the average temperature of the planet and are the own panels of scientists who are beginning to see that climate change, and its consequences, is going faster than what was determined in the worst forecasts. "

Europe and its duties

In any case, the timing is strategic: "The announcement seems to herald a commitment by the US at the Paris Climate Summit in favor of a global agreement on greenhouse emissions," adds Vizcaíno. In his opinion, this meeting of world leaders is key since it is preceded by multiple disappointments, which is why it is announced as "the last chance to stop climate change and its consequences."

Meanwhile, Europe continues to work on its climate and energy objectives in three different lines: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency.

In this sense, from the European Commission press team, Dimitri Barua explains to The Huffington Post how the EU is struggling to implement a common energy policy, since energy dependence costs the EU about 400,000 million each year of euros. This would be achieved, says Barua, a new energy model that meets the objectives of the fight against climate change and guarantee a more rational use of resources, avoiding excessive dependence on foreigners.

Beyond future plans, there are several measures undertaken by the EU that today favor the achievement of the great environmental challenges, although the spokesman for Los Verdes believes that the EU has to do more and should do it now. Thus, he argues that the 28 reached an agreement in October 2014 according to which they committed to "an average reduction of 40% of emissions by 2030", compared to emissions in 1990, but both they "and most of environmental associations ", stated that" 40% could and should be reached in 2020. "

For his part, Vizcaíno emphasizes the work of the EU in the field of energy saving and efficiency, "the one that most influences our day to day". "It has been regulated from the energy consumption of buildings to ecological labeling."

Act immediately

Precisely, in the field of energy efficiency, Barua points to an important fact for citizens: "It may seem surprising, but in Europe it is estimated that 20% of all electricity is used unnecessarily. We cannot afford to be inefficient In 2012 we revised the Energy Efficiency Directive -introducing the Energy Certification of Buildings, for example- and today new buildings use half the energy than in the 1980s and the industry uses approximately one 19% less energy than in 2001 ".

There are also interesting initiatives such as the so-called "Covenant of Mayors". It is a European movement in which local and regional authorities participate who have made a voluntary commitment to improve energy efficiency and use renewable energy sources in their territories. The signatories have not only proposed to exceed the EU objective of reducing CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020, but also propose initiatives such as energy audits, efficient lighting, sustainable mobility ...

Little known is also the EU emissions trading scheme. It is one of the pillars of EU climate policy and under this regime, each Member State has a "basket" of greenhouse gas emissions for its industries and important point sources. That is, each has a number of "rights" or emission permits for a specified period and each facility can either reduce its emissions or buy rights. The idea is that emission rights become stricter and more expensive, which forces the reduction of emissions progressively.

"It is Europe's main instrument to fight climate change and put the EU on the path to a 'low carbon' economy," explains Barua. With the help of this scheme, the EU and the Member States intend to respect the commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions made under the Kyoto Protocol. "For example, last year the emissions of the industries that participate in this regime were reduced by 4.5%", explains Barua.

Yet governments now have their next big goal at the Paris Summit, when world leaders face the opportunity of what would be the "most ambitious climate agreement of our generation," in Barua's words.

Huffington Post

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