Brussels, March 8, 2012 – Proposals for how Europe might tackle climate change over the next 40 years are on the agenda of a meeting of Europe’s environment ministers tomorrow (March 9) in Brussels. Environment group, Friends of the Earth Europe, is warning ministers not to postpone the setting of ambitious emissions reduction targets – they have already postponed the decision in the past – or Europe will be less likely to be able to prevent catastrophic climate change.
Environment Ministers will discuss the European Commission’s ‘Roadmap to a Low Carbon Economy in 2050’, which proposes medium-term targets of 40 per cent emission cuts by 2030 (based on 1990 levels) and 60 per cent by 2040.
European governments are divided over the proposal, the major stumbling block being a proposal to increase the 2020 target to 25% domestic reductions. The United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Belgium and Ireland are supportive of the increase. Poland is leading opposition to higher targets, threatening to veto any decision in a repeat of scenes last June.  Friends of the Earth Europe is calling on national governments to recognise the multiple benefits of higher climate targets and on the supportive member states to stand firm on the targets.
Esther Bollendorff, climate justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “The countries in favour of higher emissions reductions targets know they will bring long-term economic benefits. Reduced fuel spending alone would save 20 billion euros per year, create millions of jobs and reduce healthcare costs. Not only are politicians risking bringing on devastating climate change, they are also choosing not to save money in a time of economic crisis.”
Billions of euros available under the EU’s Cohesion policy instruments  could cover the upfront investments needed to deliver the emissions cuts, especially in low income member states such as Poland.
Esther Bollendorff continued: “Postponing a higher 2020 target will only make it more difficult to meet the EU’s long term goal of 80-95% emission reductions by 2050. Science and historical responsibility tell us Europe must commit to at least 40% emissions reductions domestically by 2020 and make adequate finances available for developing countries.”
NOTES: Environment Council conclusions in June 2011 were approved by all Member States, except Poland.  Within the EU budget, the Structural and Cohesion Funds (Cohesion Fund and European Regional Development Fund) have budgeted €190bn for CEE countries. Applying the mainstreaming principle of 20% at least €38bn would be available over 7 years (i.e. roughly €5,4bn/yr or €670mil/CEE country/yr).