Take responsibility for your climate, Europeans urged

Jose Manuel Barroso urged Europeans to take personal responsibility for climate change as he launched a major multimedia awareness campaign, to unroll across the EU this week.

But environmentalists accused him of hypocrisy for himself driving a gas-guzzling 4×4 while telling Europeans that they all “can and need” to limit the climate change threat.

Each EU citizen is responsible for 11 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, with household energy and private car use the biggest sources, the 4.7m euro publicity campaign points out.

It suggests ways in which an individual can cut emissions, from recycling an aluminium can – using 10 times less energy than producing a new one – to installing solar panels and wind turbines on homes.

EC president Barroso said: “[This campaign] makes clear to which extent we all are responsible for climate change and what individuals can and need to do to limit this threat.

“People may say that their individual behaviour does not matter; I say – on the contrary: Households in the EU count for a large part of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions, so each of us has a role to play in bringing down emissions.”

Household energy use for heating, hot water and electricity produces around 20% of the EU’s greenhouse gases, according to the new campaign website (www.climatechange.eu.com). But private cars are responsible for 10% of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions, the website also points out.

Friends of the Earth accused the EC president of hypocrisy by driving around Brussels in a Volkswagen Touareg – a 4×4 that produces 265g CO2/km. This compares with the 140g CO2/km voluntary target that carmakers have set themselves for new European cars sold from 2008 onwards, and with the 160g CO2/km average for new European cars sold in 2005.

Jan Kowalzig of FoE called for binding EU targets on CO2 emissions from new cars to replace the voluntary measures now in place:

“Greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector have risen dramatically over the past decade. Binding efficiency standards for cars would help to reverse this trend. And in addition, if cars were to meet an efficiency standard of 120g CO2 per km, that could also reduce the huge economic costs of importing foreign oil by almost 30 billion Euros a year.”

A survey from the European transport NGO T&E recently revealed that new cars sold in the EU in 2005 emitted 160g CO2 /km on average (see related story). This proves that voluntary targets were insufficient to reach the 140g/km by 2008, T&E argued.

Meanwhile, France has implemented measures to fight car CO2 emissions independently of the EU by introducing compulsory CO2-labelling for new vehicles (see see related story).

Goska Romanowicz

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