Greenpeace is urging the EU to go to Johannesburg armed with stricter targets and to weigh in behind radical proposals to promote clean energy.
Greenpeace, the environmental pressure group, wants the European Union to take the lead in forging links with developing nations to counterbalance anticipated attempts by the United States and its allies to weaken the resolve of the Earth Summit in Johannesburg.
Denmark recently hosted a meeting of EU and candidate country environment ministers to thrash out a common strategy for Johannesburg, with the declared aim of pushing for specific milestones.
This was welcomed by Greenpeace EU climate advisor Michel Raquet, but the campaign group fears that the strategy does not go far enough. “The EU should not just push for clear targets; it also needs to build strong alliances with developing countries,” he said.
Greenpeace questions the Union's commitment to access to clean energy and is calling for it to adopt a proposal originally tabled by Brazil to promote renewable energy. “The EU's proposed targets are not progressive enough,” Raquet said. “We are promoting a target of 10% use of new renewables globally by 2010.”
New renewables include solar, wind and geothermal power, which overcome the environmental and social impact of more traditional forms of renewable energy, such as hydropower.
If the 2010 deadline is to be met, it would require backing on all fronts – political, technological and financial. “The EU needs to help ensure that technology will be leap-frogged to developing countries and funding needs to be made available,” said Raquet. Greenpeace is also urging the EU to stop exporting ‘unclean' and ‘dangerous' energy forms, such as nuclear and coal power, to developing nations.
Last week, the European Commission unveiled a draft proposal to encourage the use of cleaner combined heat and power technology to meet 18% of the EU's energy needs by 2012, from the current 10%. But environmentalists say such measures are inadequate because they lack clear targets.
Nevertheless, Denmark has vowed to put the Union's own house in order by translating Kyoto pledges into action. Already a wind power pioneer, Denmark approved tough new regulations last month to phase out a slew of greenhouse gases by 2006. The regulations went down badly with manufacturers using gases in the production of refrigerators and air-conditioners.
Denmark also wants to prove that sustainable industry is not just good for the climate, but good for the bottom line. “By setting up strict rules, we are serving industry well because people across the world will always want environmentally friendly products,” said John BÊk Sørensen, deputy director-general of the Danish environment ministry.
By adopting a national commitment to phase in wind power, the country has pulled ahead of rivals to become the world's top wind technology producer. However, Greenpeace is worried that Denmark's new Conservative government might not have the same commitment to the environment as its predecessor. “The market will not solve the issues of sustainable development and the Danish presidency has put this forward as one of its solutions,” Raquet said.
This article first appeared in the 1 August-4 September 2002 edition of The European Voice.