European Union's Ambitious Plan to Control Climate Change after 2012

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BYLINE: Stavros Dimas

This week, representatives of virtually every country in the world converge on the Indonesian island of Bali for two weeks of negotiations on a vital challenge that is starting to affect us all: climate change. The European Union will be exercising its global leadership role to press for strong action.

The UN climate conference in Bali is crucial because time is rapidly running out to prevent global warming from reaching dangerous levels that could redraw the face of the planet and devastate our economies in the coming decades.

The alarming scientific assessment, completed in mid-November by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), concludes that climate change is "unequivocal" and accelerating. All its scenarios project a further rise in temperatures this century that would take us into the danger zone where the risk of irreversible and potentially catastrophic changes in the global environment greatly increases.

It is our generation's historic responsibility to prevent this from happening.

I believe this is also the clear message the Nobel committee wanted to give in awarding this year's Peace Prize to the IPCC and former US vice-president Al Gore.

Yet, as things stand today, the current targets for industrialised countries to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases, established under the Kyoto Protocol, will expire at the end of 2012, with nothing to follow them. The international community has to move urgently to plug this gap. That is why the European Union is adamant that the Bali conference must decide to launch negotiations on a comprehensive and ambitious global climate agreement for the post-2012 era.

We need to set a deadline for completing these negotiations by the end of 2009 so there is enough time to ratify the agreement and bring it into force before the end of 2012.

And we must define a "Bali roadmap" for the negotiations that sets out the level of ambition we are aiming for and the main components of the future agreement.

For the EU there is no question that the ambition must be to limit global warming to no more than 2[degrees]C above the pre-industrial temperature. This is the level beyond which the scientists warn us that climate change would become very dangerous.

Keeping within this limit means that global emissions will have to peak within the next 10 to 15 years and then be cut by at least 50% of 1990 levels by 2050. Achieving these reductions is without doubt a huge challenge, but the IPCC supports the European Commission's analysis that it is both technologically feasible and economically affordable if we act fast. …