china-usUS President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, have agreed to a surprise climate deal. Analysts hailed the unexpected news as a diplomatic breakthrough after years of stalled negotiations, and see hope that a global agreement can now be reached at Paris in 2015.

However, the Republican-led US Congress has reacted to news of the deal with anger (and it was Congress which torpedoed US efforts to join the Kyoto Protocol by refusing to ratify it).

Nevertheless, no global deal was going to happen without China and the US, the world’s two biggest polluters (though China is still far behind the US in terms of per capita emissions). Particularly so because the European Union in October agreed to “flexible” climate targets that could potentially be abandoned if a deal failed to emerge in Paris.

If you want to know more about some of the facts and figures on climate change, we’ve put together the infographic below (click for a bigger image).

Is the EU still a global leader on climate change? We had a comment sent in from Massimo arguing that Europe was playing a leading role, but that it should do more to defend itself against unfair competition from climate polluters:

We are already a global leader in areas of green economy and life quality, but we have to defend our values from unfair competition.

We put Massimo’s comment to Paul Watkinson, Head of the Climate Negotiation Team at the French Ministry of Ecology. Here’s what he said:

We also had a similar question sent in by Kevin, who wanted to know if reducing greenhouse gases in Europe was “worth all the effort” when emerging industrial nations were continuing to pollute.

To get a response, we put this question to Bryony Worthington, the UK Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate. She argued that developing nations are growing increasingly concerned with reducing their emissions, and that it was important to remember that Europe had historically polluted far more than any region since the industrial revolution:

Finally, we also put Kevin’s question to Artur Runge-Metzger, Director of International and Climate Strategy at the European Commission (DG Climate Action). He argued that it was entirely possible to have continued economic growth whilst at the same time reducing carbon emissions:

Is it worth reducing greenhouse emissions in Europe when emerging nations continue to pollute? And how can the EU defend against “carbon leakage” and unfair competition from polluting countries? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions!

31 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    James McManama

    Well, there’s no point in leading if nobody follows. But I do think that the EU approach to climate change is somewhat taken for granted by others, which undermines its “leadership” efforts.

  2. avatar
    Matej Dujić

    Big US-China deal is just a deal, just light infinite number of deals that are not realised. So at this point this question is pointless.

  3. avatar
    Jaime Martins

    Oil, Oil, Oil, Oil, Oil, Oil, Oil, China and US, they just signed a treated to control it

  4. avatar
    Jaume Roqueta

    the leaders on climate change are china and USa as they are the two countries that emits more CO2 to the atmosphere!… EU will do what Obama says… thats all… stop saying we are independent, we are just an extension of USA

    • avatar
      Ivona Harcarova

      it is sad but it is true…about Europe in Europe but without Europe the other thing is that they do not really care about enviroment anyway…EU was always following what US have said but we can pretend that we are independed and have democracy…

  5. avatar
    Yannick Cornet

    At least the EU showed it was possible. And EU cities still make top ranks in terms of livability and attractiveness. There is thus nothing wrong in leading on what inevitably must be done. Its for our own good too.

  6. avatar
    Claus Skøtt Christensen

    Uhm. Wasn’t that deal just a reaffirmation of some old goals that were already set up years ago? “No, really, we’re actually gonna go through with it” is hardly a paradigm shift.

  7. avatar
    Marko Sucic

    EU is responsible, but usually ends up damaging its own industries while US and china enjoy benefits. That is even more so in other areas except climate change, like subsidies to shipbuilding industry.

  8. avatar
    Ivan Vikalo

    the EU is an exceptional leader in all matters of environmentalism: it is the safest region in the world in relation to chemicals, cleanest in the world, most sustainable in the world, and the most forward-looking in the world… Just that is impressive that an entire continent which is the biggest and wealthiest market in world is that much ahead of everyone else. So, the answer here is obvious: of course and it still is, and it will be unchallenged for the next 50 years unless the Americans really pull themselves together, but we know that they won’t because they lack political will, and have the most destructable democratic system with a creeping lobby structure that over-represents the biggest polluters and halters of progress. Now, this is not to say that we are satisfied in Europe, and we have a way too long way to go, but to compare the US or China is an unrealistic comparison.

    • avatar
      jacob apostol

      I don’t think so! When we say a global leader, it connotes a notion that Europe has a moral ascendancy to influence the global path on the issue of climate change. its influence is limited only to its sphere of governance. Indeed, it has failed to steer other countries outside of its borders to follow or embrace their pollution-free development model. While they have made a big stride in advancing technology on decreasing carbon emission, its captivating influence does pique the interest of other big industrial countries of the world, especially the US and China. Besides, this is an issue that requires a collective action of all big countries. Because what lies a head is the very survival of mankind. Bear in mind, we have only one earth to live in. Let’s preserve it to the coming generations. This a huge challenge facing not only the Europeans, but also of all peoples across the globe.

  9. avatar
    Josephine Cassar

    Choose a Commissioner who answers questions and gives details about what he is going to do to save the environment, not one who evades answers and whose track record is far from one desired, if EU wants to keep its track record. And why combine environment with other elements in the commissioner’s portfolglio? Environment should have a commissioner totally devoted to the environment

  10. avatar
    Antinazi Archimedes

    Why did they drop the buz words “global warming” and what about climategate and could they hide the decline of global temperatures?

  11. avatar
    Nikolas Kalaitzidis

    Has the time arrived for Europe the tides to lead ? Both ….Democracy and Climate in Europe need enhancement and intelligent thouhtful participation.

  12. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    Great news the USA and New China policies concerted scale descarbonization of the global economy

  13. avatar
    catherine benning

    How can Europe try to be leaders on any matter they are interested in whilst they still try to hide very important facts about their involvement in war on their doorstep? Who will trust a word they say or want to do business with those they cannot trust?

    Here is one of the reasons they have no authority to lead on anything important. Once they fess up to being involved with people who are deceitful and confess to their mishandling of European matters outside their sphere, then perhaps, they can be the movers and shakers they long to be. Until then, no.

    And this:

  14. avatar
    Popov Andrey

    How about increasing of obtaining the more oil, dear Mr. Obama? Why your words differs from your actions?
    Russia acts as well as USA but Russian President Vladimir Putin does not give the empty promises to all the people…

  15. avatar
    catherine benning

    Everything politicians do is against public interests.

    In this link you will see that the intention is to lower the health standards of European food, to rid the UK of the health service by promoting a take over by US insurance companies and all the other aspects of ‘what will not be in our best interests’ they can fiddle to make money for their own bank accounts. Just the way the Clintons, $300 million dollars in their private accounts, and of course, the Blair creature and his insider trading putting at least £100 million into his multiple banking practices and growing. What are these others making? Obama is already lined up with corporate back handers concerns ready for his departure from office. And I remember Berliners jumping with joy at his election as he was going to be different and fight for the poor. You only had to look at the wife’s face to know that was a fantasy beyond reason. He, like so many of these wide boys, was raised from a poverty stricken existence by government funded tax payers money for his ‘special’ education throughout. This money followed him in his short spell in various Chicago offices and then his campaign for the White House. He was paid by the CIA from the time they found this ethnic boy was articulate enough to hail as the manna from heaven they were all looking for to prove their premise was the one to follow.

    So, what and who is at the back of this Transatlantic Trade Deal in Europe? Juncker, that man of holiness or is it fraudster? To my utter chagrin, Christine Lagarde, we now hear is on the take at the IMF? What chance does any of us have with these ponces. Time to throw them all out of office and replace with a brand new set of thinkers. As well as release us, once and for all time, from the clutches of US hegemony.

  16. avatar

    Of course we should! What kind of question is that?
    Is the EU starting to believe the corporate lies that AGW is a “liberal hoax” ? Have you all gone mad!?

  17. avatar
    catherine benning

    This article explains how Germany, in particular, can be a Global leader. More of this kind of thinking and once again ‘Europe’ will be worth more than its weight in gold. Providing its priority remains with the youth of its own collective tax payers. And by that I mean, freely educate the children and youth of Europe first. Not some kind of PC idea that ‘others’ are more worthy of a higher investment than our own. We foot the bill we must get first choice.

    Climate change is a side issue.

  18. avatar

    Being a leader in sustainable development shall be a major goal for the EU.
    Why? Because climate change is something that will sooner or later impact every single person on this planet. Innovating in the right direction, with real ethical norms and values combined with great european designed technology would be an economic, but mostly social success. EU has to become a leader and set a worldwide example of how we can change this world, without revolutionizing it. We can set an example for having an interactive, participative democracy, for having a humane and ecological way of living, without non transparent institutions and industries and still having a proper strong economy. We just a need a small change. Indeed it will need a lot of investment, but this one will be for all european citizens in the 21st century. This investment will be a major actor to a strong, open and ethical EUROPE. It will set an example to all non (or half) democratic countries and to those who don’t see why pollution is such a major issue for the planet’s future. In Europe, we are all different, that’s why we will never lose our identities, but we have such strong cultures and a long history which make us mature and wise. We are able to set this example and show others how to live in a more balanced way. For both northern and southern countries. Let us change the EU for more democracy, more ecology, more ethics and still more cultural exchange.

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