EU climate costs warning as leaders meet for Brussels summit

Region faces €190 billion bill by 2080s if nothing is done to arrest temperature rise, says official report

(Pic: EU Council/Flickr)

(Pic: EU Council/Flickr)

By Ed King

Europe can expect heavy flooding, forest fires and a spike in heat related deaths by the end of the century if no further action is taken to address global temperature increases.

The European Union’s Joint Research Council says regional damages by the 2080s could amount to €190 billion if the world warms to 3.5C above pre-industrial levels, hitting 1.8% of its current GDP.

In its final version of its Climate Impacts in Europe report, published today, it says heat-related deaths could hit 200,000, while 8000 km2 of forest in southern Europe could burn.

The latest version of the study has been promoted a day before European leaders meet in Brussels for a key two-day summit, where the bloc’s energy and climate strategy is set to be discussed.

The meeting is expected to be dominated by discussions over the identity of the next EU President, likely to be former Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker.

But pressure is mounting on the 28 member states to agree on plans to safeguard energy supplies and agree on how it will curb greenhouse gas emissions.

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Divisions remain over the level of greenhouse gas cuts the bloc should make, as well as its energy efficiency and renewable targets.

In a recent interview with RTCC, Poland’s climate chief Marcin Korolec warned current plans for a 40% GHG cut would unfairly penalise Eastern European countries.

“Until now, there has been an approach that some have an ambition and some others have to deliver,” he said.

In a statement released today EU climate chief Connie Hedegaard repeated her line that adopting the proposed 2030 energy and climate package will boost the region’s competitiveness.

“Taking action and taking a decision on the 2030 climate and energy framework in October, will bring us just there and make Europe ready for the fight against climate change,” she said.

Last week seven member states made a pre-emptive move in calling for a binding target for energy efficiency.

“The current situation in the Ukraine emphasises the importance of reducing dependence on imported oil and natural gas,” said the signatories of the letter, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal.

“Reduction of energy consumption through energy efficiency is the most robust and cost effective means of increasing energy security and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, and there is still a considerable economic potential for energy efficiency improvements in most areas.”

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The European Commission is understood to have outlined plans for a target, but this is likely to be opposed by a number of states, notably the UK, who want to have flexibility over how to meet emission reduction goals.

Current targets being discussed range from 27% to 35%, although NGOs are pushing for 40% of cost-effective savings. Only Denmark, Ireland and Croatia are on course to meet the EU’s current energy saving criteria.

According to analysis by London-based thinktank E3G, the cost of implementing these savings would be offset by savings of €1-€2 trillion between 2020-2030.

EU reliance on gas imports from Russia and an annual fossil fuels import bill exceeding €400 billion are driving factors behind this move.

In a briefing paper released this week, E3G argues the countries most dependent on Russian gas are also those with the worst energy efficiency performance.

It says immediate EU steps to safeguard its energy supplies should focus on cost-effective energy demand reduction rather than investing in additional gas capacity.

“Action to accelerate building retrofit, build electricity demand reduction markets and incentivise industrial efficiency could, by 2030, reduce gas demand equivalent to over 170% of Russian gas imports in 2011,” the authors write.

ANALYSIS: Efficiency can be at the heart of EU energy policy

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