NEW YORK CITY: At the United Nations Climate Summit, the European Commission (EC) will formally recommend a 40-percent cut in heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 for its 28 member countries, its president said on Monday.
“It’s ambitious, but I believe it’s achievable,” EC President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a USA Today interview in advance of Tuesday’s summit. He said he’s confident that Europe’s countries, which have been slashing emissions, will approve this new reduction — from 1990 levels — at a meeting next month.
Leaders of more than 120 countries, including President Barack Obama, will announce their efforts to fight global warming — as will many major companies — at what’s expected to be the largest climate meeting ever. Their pledges aim to build momentum for a new global climate accord to be announced next year during UN climate talks in Paris.
The one-day summit, preceded by a historic march that drew tens of thousands of climate activists to Manhattan streets on Sunday, comes as scientists report that global greenhouse gas emissions rose 2.3 percent last year to record levels. In the US, after several recent years of decline, they rose 2.9 percent.
“This is an enormous challenge. And this is why the United States is prepared to take the lead in order to bring other nations to the table,” Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday, committing to make it “front and center in all of our diplomatic efforts.” He said cutting carbon emissions is a “win-win-win,” because it delivers health and other benefits.
Response from business
Corporate leaders made the same pitch. “If you innovate and set the bar high, you can do both,” Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said at a climate event, referring to profits and sustainability. “We need to be a pebble in the pond that creates the ripple,” he said noting that renewable energy already powers 94 percent of Apple’s corporate facilities worldwide.
“They’re good business decisions,” said Jose Lopez, head of Nestle’s global operations, about the company’s halving of factory emissions in the last 10 years and its efforts to ensure products don’t come from illegally deforested land. Citing water scarcity in Mexico, he said Nestle is opening its first dairy factory there next month that will use water extracted from milk to cover operations.
“We need to find solutions, because we need to continue to feed the planet,” Lopez told USA Today. What’s different now, he said, is that his company — like others — is sharing its experiences and working with UN officials and non-governmental groups. “Silos are falling down,” he said.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced that a thousand companies and 73 countries — including China, Russia and the European Union — support putting a price or tax on fossil fuels to boost investments in cleaner energy. “Today we see real momentum,” he said, noting the governments represent almost half the world’s population.
Barroso said the European Union (EU), which his commission represents, is on track to meet its earlier pledge of cutting its 1990 carbon emissions 20 percent by 2020. He said it has done so while growing its economies, proving it’s possible to do both. He outlined the new 40-percent cut earlier this year and is now putting it forward for an
EU vote. He spoke at the New York Stock Exchange shortly after ringing the trading bell.
Still, he said the EU’s emissions now account for only 11 percent of global ones, so the world’s biggest polluters — China, the United States and India — need to step up to the plate.
“President Obama’s plan clearly goes in the right direction,” Barroso said, referring to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal this past June to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants 30 percent — from 2005 levels — by 2030. Obama has also boosted fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks.
“China is doing much more than it was doing before,” he said as well, adding global warming has caused serious air pollution in its cities and has become “a real social problem” there.
Still, Barroso said China should do more. He said it has resisted binding global agreements. Obama administration officials have also indicated they’re open to a political accord rather than a legally binding treaty that Congress is unlikely to ratify.
“The agreement needs to have legal force,” Barroso said, adding companies need to know “what the legal framework will be.” MCT