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Guide for new European Commission’s decisions: Getting into the Right Lane for 2050

Press release | 29-10-2009

The new European Commission faces enormous challenges: climate policy, energy supply, and reform of agricultural policies, all require a long-term vision, resolve and global leadership. The combination of climate policy, construction of the power grid of the future, and nature protection, constitute a challenging project that offers the possibility to show what European collaboration can really achieve. It requires specific initiatives, to be taken during the term of the new European Commission, to ensure that targets for land resources, energy and climate will become attainable. These are the recommendations of ‘Getting into the Right Lane for 2050’, by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the Stockholm Resilience Centre, published today.

Long-term vision identifies current strategic choices

The study places the European Union in a global perspective for 2050 of producing food for a population of nine billion, while minimising biodiversity loss; mitigating climate change while enhancing energy security; and developing a low-carbon EU transport system. Reasoning back from 2050, specific strategic actions are identified for the EU, for the coming five to ten years.

Low-carbon transport: aviation and shipping will determine success

For example, greenhouse gas emissions from aviation and maritime transport, by 2050, will equal those from transport in and around urban areas. However, solutions for aviation and shipping are more difficult and thus time-consuming, both technically and in terms of global collaboration. Therefore, while low-carbon transport in and around urban areas in the EU already calls for major changes, timely initiatives in low-carbon aviation and shipping are squarely on the critical path. In this vein, the EU ministers last week did propose concrete global emission targets for aviation and shipping for 2020, to be tabled in the upcoming negotiations in Copenhagen.

Moreover, the study finds that unless a coherent EU-wide policy on transport and climate is established, EU transport will not contribute its fair share to the EU’s decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This will mean that an extra burden is placed on the EU’s power sector – perhaps requiring a decrease in emissions of 110 instead of 80%, compared to 1990 levels, by 2050.

For investments, 2050 is close by

Key factors in the analysis are the magnitude and inherent slow pace of change, as well as the longevity of capital goods. Specifically, realigning institutions and constructing large-scale infrastructure take decades to achieve. In the world arena, there is a limited policy window, before EU leverage shrinks – for instance on global product standards – as new players become more prominent towards 2050.

A dozen junctions

In total, the study presents a dozen examples of strategic choices that should be made by the next European Commission, if it wants to bring a sensible use of resources within reach, by 2050. These choices range from EU regulation aimed at guaranteeing long-term cost-recovery from investments in a power grid on a continental scale, to the EU helping to bridge the world’s diverging perspectives on land, food and biodiversity in the context of globalisation ― as has been achieved over the past 25 years in climate change. The study highlights the Mediterranean basin as the logical area to pioneer new forms of agricultural policy, prioritising diversity in land management as an insurance in the crowded world of 2050.

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