The 28-member European Union, the third-largest emitter of planet-warming greenhouse gases after China and the United States, has long been held up as the poster child of efforts to save the climate.
But after years of taking the lead in talks for a global climate pact, and making tough policy and investment choices to lessen fossil fuel reliance at home, the bloc’s resolve now seems to be flagging, analysts say.
Europe is responsible for about 10 per cent of global emissions.
Having been at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution that sparked the large-scale carbon dioxide pollution of Earth’s atmosphere now blamed for global warming, Europe took the lead hundreds of years later in shifting to cleaner energy generated by sources such as the Sun and wind.
It was instrumental in passing, and keeping alive, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol despite opposition from the United States and other developed countries.
Europe also created the first, still the biggest, carbon market in a bid to incentivise companies to pollute less. The Emissions Trading System limits emissions and allows companies to trade in allowances not used.
The carbon market, which covers about 40 per cent of Europe’s industrial emissions, has proven ineffective, critics say, and needs urgent reform.
Carbon allowances were too generous, resulting in a carbon price too low to encourage savings.
The bloc also took on emissions-cutting targets that analysts say are too low to stay under the ceiling for average global warming set in the Paris pact — no more than two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.
The EU pledged to reduce its own emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 over 1990 levels — a goal it is on course to exceed.
With three years to go, the target has already been met even if five countries — Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg and Ireland — are not on track to achieve their national goals. The European Environment Agency expects the bloc will reach 24 per cent in 2020.