Tackling Climate Change One Deal at a Time

By Mike Beveridge ’17

Friday marked a landmark agreement by the European Union to take steps to fight climate change.  The member nations agreed to new targets which will see a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2030.  The European heads of state also agreed to a politically binding target to increase renewable energy use to 27% of total energy production, an increase from the current 14%.  However, they hope to see renewable energy become 30% of total energy production.  The states also agreed to lower the cap on maximum total emissions; starting in 2021, the rate of decline will increase from 1.7% to 2.2% annually.

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Unfortunately, this deal’s success is dependent on a number of other countries.  The agenda of the US and China are of major concern to European nations.  As the two largest emitters in the world, the US and China have significant abilities to make or break any deal brokered to combat climate change.  Furthermore, countries like Poland, which depend heavily on industry and coal for their energy needs, threatened to veto the deal and forced significant concessions in the agreement.

It is estimated that the deal will cost 38 billion Euros ($48 billion) a year to reach these targets.  To accomplish these goals, countries across Europe have agreed to improve energy connections and compromise on efficiency standards.  Of all the regional blocs in the world, it is no surprise that Europe has adopted the most ambitious goals.  As of 2012, European greenhouse gas emissions had fallen over 15% compared to 1990 levels, and by 2014 estimates show that Europe has been able to reduce emissions by 20% or more.  These numbers far surpass the goals set by the Kyoto Protocol, which set the target at an 8% reduction from 1990 levels.

While many hope that this deal will bring about broad benefits, including improving the environment and spurring economic growth through increased investment in green technology, there are doubters.  Members of the European Green Party fear that the concessions given to certain countries to keep their carbon permit prices at zero will undermine Europe’s climate policy on the whole as well as Europe’s fight for energy independence.  Additionally, there are economic concerns.  Given Europe’s weak growth, the strain on the economy due to the stricter environmental regulations may hurt job and economic growth.







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