EU stakeholders outline road towards a post-2012 climate regime

This was one of the conclusions from the culminating conference of the EU’s multi-stakeholder High Level Group on Competitiveness, Energy and the Environment. The group has over the last couple of years brought together senior representatives of different stakeholders to draw up joint recommendations for how the EU should address in a coherent manner the challenges of energy security, employment and climate change.

Global sectoral agreements
A key question underlying the group’s work has been which set of sticks and carrots could entice other countries, not least developing countries, to join a global climate change regime.
“In a new global regime, we need to recognise unilateral action already being taken by China, India and other developing countries, and at the same time we should give them incentives for further action,” said Edward Helme, president of the Center for Clean Air Policy in Washington DC. A central proposal is to conclude global agreements for energy-intensive sectors. Countries like China would commit to certain emission levels per output of, say, its cement industry. If the Chinese industry beats the target, they would be allowed to sell emission credits abroad. Otherwise they would need to purchase such credits. To make such a system appealing to developing countries, it could be combined with funds and technology provided by rich countries, for instance for carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Carbon capture and storage key
Most speakers agreed that CCS would be key to curbing emissions rapidly enough, as a supplement to renewable energy and energy efficiency.
“At least in the next 50 years, coal will represent a huge share of energy supply, both because of the security of its supply and its competitive price. Therefore I don’t know any other way than CCS for halting climate change quickly enough, said Lars Josefsson, president and CEO of Swedish power utility Vattenfall. In his opinion, a global emissions cap was necessary in order to make CCS from fossil fuel power plants unavoidable.
“The commercialisation of CCS depends on regulation and the price of carbon. We are calculating with a break-even point for CCS around 25 euros per tonne of CO2,” he said. Josefsson thought 3 billion euros would be enough to get in place the 12 full-scale demonstration plants by 2015 proposed by the European Technology Platform for Zero-Emission Fossil-Fuel Power Plants, where Bellona is one of the protagonists.

More information about the High Level Group and its recommendations is available here: http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/environment/hlg/hlg_en.htm