Despite the European Union's commitment of a 20-percent cut in emissions by 2020, Europe in fact can achieve at least a 40-percent reduction, according to a new study.
"This is the minimum scale and speed of reductions science says is necessary from rich countries to avert the worst impacts of climate change, and is the kind of deep cuts needed if industrialized countries are to repay their climate debt and make a just and effective global climate agreement possible," said the study prepared by the Stockholm Environment Institute in partnership with Friends of the Earth Europe.
The report was to be presented Wednesday on the sidelines of the ongoing Copenhagen climate change negotiations.
The EU has so far set a 20-percent emissions reduction target for 2020 compared with the level of 1990, and pledged to increase that to 30 percent if the reduction commitments of other countries are considered sufficient by the EU.
"Our analysis shows that deep cuts in emissions can be achieved in Europe at reasonable cost between now and 2050, even with rather conservative assumptions about technological improvement," said Charles Heaps, lead author of the study and a senior scientist in SEI's climate and energy program.
"The scale and speed of changes required may seem daunting, and indeed it will require a mobilization of Europe's economies, but the potential costs of inaction for Europe and the whole world are so large that doing nothing presents a far more implausible and dangerous future pathway for Europe."
Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International, said, "Rich countries are responsible for the vast majority of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today and must immediately commit to steep and legally binding reductions of their emissions at home of at least 40 percent by 2020."
According to the research, the reductions can be achieved through a combination of radical improvements in energy efficiency, the accelerated phase-out of fossil fuels, a dramatic shift towards renewable energies, and lifestyle changes, such as a shift to public transport.
More than 15,000 participants, including delegates from more than 190 countries, are gathering here from Dec. 7-18 for the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The 12-day conference is expected to seal a deal to slow the pace of global climate change.