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European Union flag. (Image Credit: Håkan Dahlström)

European Union flag. (Image Credit: Håkan Dahlström / Flickr)

The European Commission has issued a blueprint for how it wants to tackle global climate change, and it’s not nearly as drastic as it sounds.

So here’s the deal: Back in 2009, the eight wealthiest countries on the planet agreed that if global temperatures rise by an average of 2°C by the end of this century, the impacts of climate change will be potentially catastrophic. This “two degree threshold” was reached based on the scientific consensus that (mostly man-made) greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet.

Two degrees does not seem like a lot, but remember that it’s a global average – meaning that the planet’s widely varying temperatures need to change quite a bit to reach such a state. Since 1880, the planet has already warmed by 0.85°C and, according to Professor Anders Levermann from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Research, it has already had an impact.

“At one degree,” he told Renew Economy, “we are already experiencing damages. Sea level rise in the long term…is somewhere in the vicinity of two meters. That puts cities like New York, Calcutta and Shanghai in difficult positions, and they need to protect themselves.”

With this in mind, 186 countries signed the Copenhagen Accord in 2009. During the UN meeting that precipitated it, G8 leaders pledged to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. That hasn’t happened. Instead, the planet’s leading countries are paying $775 billion every year to subsidize the use and production of fossil fuels, the burning of which is the leading contributor to global warming.

This December, the UN will gather in Paris to discuss how they will collectively respond to climate change. The European Commission is recommending that countries should commit to a 60 percent cut in carbon emissions (from 2010 levels) by 2050, with accompanying five-year reviews.

Though this sounds ambitious, The Guardian points out that it’s no different than nations’ previous goal, which was a 50 percent cut from 1990 levels. Even that goal, according to The Guardian, was based on an outdated 2007 IPCC report.

Suffice it to say, the previous goal did not come to fruition, and there is little evidence to say this goal will come any closer.

“It’s frustrating to see the European Commission insist on the need to keep global temperature increases below two degrees celsius, but gloss over the inadequacy of its own action on climate change,” added Brook Riley, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth Europe, told The Guardian.

What is truly ambitious, though, is the EU’s preference to create a new Paris Protocol to replace the Kyoto Protocol. A protocol would be the strictest legal agreement amongst the countries, which is why the U.S. and China will likely be against it.

President Obama has supported strong climate change action in the past, but the Republican-controlled Congress is apt to derail any international agreement that they view as superseding America’s ability to rule itself. Also, many conservative Republicans reject climate change on principle. For this reason, Obama is more likely to pursue a softer legal avenue, such as an international alliance, which would require no ratification by Congress.

Also at issue is the state of the Green Climate Fund, an initiative intended to raise funds to help developing nations adapt their infrastructure to coming climate change. The goal is to reach $100 billion by 2020. Presently, the GCF has only raised $10 billion.

The fear is that, among a host of other complications, developing countries – those who stand to suffer most from global warming – will refuse to be part of any negotiations that fail to provide for them accordingly.

“The EU can do these communications,” Green MEP Bas Eickhout told The Guardian, “but the big debate in Paris will be on finance where developing countries will ask for more. We should send the finance ministers to Paris, not the environment ones. The EU is trying to downplay the issue but it won’t be downplayed by our partners around the world.”

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