Europe climate targets strong signal to others: U.N.
By Sam Cage
DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - New European targets for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases are a strong signal to other countries to reduce their carbon output, the U.N. environment chief said on Friday.
The European Commission's plan to cut emissions unilaterally by 20 percent by 2010, announced this week, is "quite far-reaching," Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Environment Program, said at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.
"I think the signal value of the European decision cannot be underestimated for other parts of the world," Steiner told Reuters.
Some environment groups -- including the Nobel Prize-winning U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- have criticized the European proposals for not going far enough.
"If you take the IPCC recommendation seriously then 30 percent would have been a more credible target," Steiner said. "But a credible target versus a politically feasible target is always in a sense the tension that is there.
"I think given the degree to which other parts of the world are willing to make firm commitments, this is a significant commitment. And it doesn't preclude the 30 percent," he said.
The next big step will be the United States, Steiner said, especially as whoever wins this year's presidential election is expected to be more willing to fight climate change than the George W. Bush administration.
"I think in the U.S. what will be a key determinant is public opinion and how business will shape the sense of possibility," Steiner said.
"Here you have a potential complicating factor, the recession, slowdown prospects. And is this going to weaken the political resolve and also the business rationale for acting on climate change?"
But fighting climate change means more efficient use of energy, which in itself could help the economy, Steiner said.
For full coverage, blogs and TV from Davos, see: http://uk.reuters.com/news/globalcoverage/worldeconomicforum2008
(Reporting by Sam Cage)