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Plenary part-session of the EP - Opening Address by Janez Podobnik, Minister of the Environment and Spatial Planning: Scientific Facts of Climate Change: Findings and Recommendations for Decision-Making (Florenz Interim Report)

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Mr Chairman, Committee Members, Honourable Members of the European Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today we have clear evidence that humans are co-responsible for the great changes in our climate system and that these changes are already having a harmful impact on nature and human society. It is also certain that the world temperature is set to increase significantly in the course of the current century if we fail to take action rapidly and to considerably reduce greenhouse emissions, actions which will inevitably entail losses and disruption in general.

The Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), adopted in Spain in November 2007, represents the most comprehensive and authentic scientific assessment on climate change to date. The report says that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal” and that the increase in anthropogenic concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions has very probably been the chief contributor to the rise in the average global temperature in the last 50 years.

The IPCC publishes scientific papers that are of key importance for policy-making. The forum was established in 1988 by a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly in order to provide decision makers with an objective source of information on climate change. Its task is to assess the latest scientific, technical and socio-economic findings published all over the world which contribute new knowledge about, and understanding of, climate change risks due to human activities and current and future consequences of climate change and ways to adapt to them and mitigate them.

The assessment reports published by the IPCC since 1990 show that science has made great progress in the field of climate change and its consequences in recent years. This can be attributed to several factors: the increasing amount of evidence on observed climate changes, the hard work of scientists and the better dissemination of scientific knowledge.

It is clear that science has to make further progress if it is to contribute to an appropriate and resolute response to the threat posed by global warming. The IPCC, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will continue to draft high-level scientific and technical reports with the help of contributions from scientists all over the world. The IPCC’s work shows that scientific assessments of climate changes encompass a wide range of different opinions, knowledge and geographical areas.

As the Florenz Interim Report notes, the knowledge we have today is sufficient for us to immediately engage in framing and implementing policies that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, as you know, in 2007 the EU Heads of State and Government decided to send a resolute message to the international community by adopting the following commitments on reducing emissions after 2012:

  •  until the agreement for the period post-2012 is concluded, the European Union is unilaterally undertaking to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by a minimum 20% by 2020 in comparison with levels in 1990;
  •  in addition, the EU is ready to undertake to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% in comparison with 1990 provided that other developed countries commit themselves to a comparable reduction of emissions and that the contribution of the economically more advanced developing countries is proportional to their responsibilities and capabilities.

The EU has been consistently emphasising that the average global temperature should not be permitted to increase by more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels if we want to avoid dangerous climate change. This is also supported by the IPCC assessment. In order to attain this aim, global emissions should reach their highest levels in the following 10 to 15 years, then by the mid-twenty-first century they should be reduced drastically to a level that will be considerably less than half that of 1990.

The EU is firmly resolved to fulfil these commitments through a comprehensive climate and energy policy with special emphasis on energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, biofuels, capture and storage of carbon dioxide, and the transition to a low-carbon economy in general. Climate changes are already occurring and they will be even more pronounced in the following decades, particularly if we fail to take firm action against them. They will affect all countries, some more than others, therefore all countries, both developed and developing countries, will have to prepare measures to adapt to the inevitable consequences of climate changes.

Let me end by reminding you of the latest conclusions of the European Council. Last year the EU adopted resolute and ambitious commitments on climate change and energy policies. Now, in 2008, the time has come for action. The Bali Climate conference made an important breakthrough and launched an international negotiating process that includes both developed and developing countries. This process is set out in the Bali Action Plan. The EU is firmly resolved to maintain its leading international role in the field of climate change and energy and to keep negotiations within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol going, particularly at the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties that will take place this December in Poznan. The aim is to ensure that an ambitious, global and comprehensive agreement on climate change for the period after 2012, complying with the EU’s objective of a maximum increase of 2 C in global temperature, is concluded in Copenhagen in 2009. The EU will be able to contribute significantly to attaining this aim by implementing the goals set at the spring meeting of the European Council in 2007. The key challenge will be to ensure that the transition to a safe and sustainable low-carbon economy is implemented in a manner consistent with the EU’s sustainable development, competitiveness, security of energy supply, food security, healthy and sustainable public finances and economic and social cohesion.


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Date: 21.05.2008