Lima climate talks: EU and US at odds over legally binding emissions targets
EU says mandatory carbon emissions cuts should be set for all countries, whereas US wants individual countries to be free to adjust the scale and pace of reductions.
The European Union (EU)'s delegation at the climate change conference in Lima has argued that legally binding cuts applying to all countries are necessary and should be adopted by 2015 and entered into force by 2020.
"The EU is of the mind that legally binding mitigation targets are the only way to provide the necessary long-term signal, the necessary confidence to the investors ... and provide credibility in the low carbon transition worldwide," said Elina Bardram, head of the EU delegation at the conference, which opened on Monday.
"We're not convinced that an alternative approach could provide the same signals that would be sufficient to deliver the global momentum," Bardram told the Guardian, adding the EU would seek to take a leadership role in negotiations for an agreement which would be "owned by all parties."
It is the first time an EU official has publicly gone on the record on legally binding targets, stating the EU's negotiating position at the Lima conference, which isintended to deliver the first draft of an accord to cut carbon emissions and stave off dangerous climate change. The accord is expected to be signed at a UN conference in Paris next year.
The EU appears to have toughened its stance faced with major nations which claim they could not impose economy wide targets. Bardram hinted that such positions could stall the negotiating process in the lead-up to the Paris meeting.
"We don't want to get to Paris and realise that the targets and the contributions did not add up to what we needed," Bardram told the Guardian, adding that the EU wanted the 2015 agreement to have "legal force through robust rules, procedures and institutions, to ensure long-term certainty and accountability".
The EU's stance is at odds with the US position which favours the 'buffet option', that would contain some legally binding elements but allow countries to determine the scale and pace of their emissions reductions, even if this this calls into question the aim of keeping temperature rises below 2C,the level that countries have agreed to limit warming to.
The US delegation at the conference in Lima were unavailable for comment.
"What the United States is putting on the table is basically the Wild West," Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth told the Guardian at the conference. "Having a deregulated climate system, having countries just make any pledge they want is a recipe for disaster. What we need is science-based rigorous regulations, it's the only way are going to tackle this climate crisis," he said.
The US pledged to cut its emissions to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025 in a deal with China last month. The EU in October agreed to binding 40% cuts by 2030 from 1990 levels.
Rehman said both pledges fell short of previous commitments, adding that the EU should be spending its "political capital" to challenge the US's approach on deregulation as well as making sure Canada and Australia's stance of "ignoring climate science doesn't pollute these climate talks".
But the UN's climate chief, Christiana Figueres, said a "gradual approach would be needed to get countries to make their independent nationally determined contributions [countries' pledges on emissions cuts]," adding it would be more of an "art than a science because there are no environmental police".