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What's Behind EU's 'Green' Commitment

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European Union leaders on Friday concluded their two-day summit, at which they pledged 2.4 billion euros (US$3.5 billion) annually from 2010 to 2012 to help the developing countries tackle climate change.

The EU also pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent, instead of the originally set target of 20 percent, by 2020 compared with 1990 levels, "provided that other developed countries commit themselves to comparable emission reductions and that developing countries contribute adequately according to their responsibilities and respective capabilities."

The leaders also discussed a major document for the EU's development in the next 10 years -- the framework of the EU 2020 Strategy designed to build the EU into a more competitive and "greener" economy.

Even as the climate talks are being held in Copenhagen, the EU's "green" commitment this time sounds more like a latest bid to seize the moral high ground than a practical and sincere action.

Shortly after the EU's announcement of its funding pledge to developing countries, Sudanese envoy Lumumba Stanislas Dia Pin, who spoke at the Cobenhagen climate change summit representing the G77 bloc, said the funding is "not a big sum." The EU offer was also dismissed as a short-term political fix.

The EU's pledge to raise its emission cuts target from the current 20 percent to 30 percent has still failed to live up to the expectations of the developing countries, analysts said. The EU's funds for the next three years are far too little to help bring about a breakthrough at the climate talks, they said.

What's more, the EU's aid comes with strings attached -- the bloc is asking developing countries to set even higher targets for emissions cuts.

The EU 2020 strategy is gradually taking shape, with the transition to a low carbon economy as one of its key targets.

In the switch to a low carbon economy, some traditional work posts will be eliminated and "greener" jobs will be created. Take renewable energy for example, by 2020, the total workforce in the sector is expected to reach 2.8 million, doubling the figure of 2005.

A "green-collar" workforce will begin to hold the most sought-after jobs in the labor market by virtue of their expertise in the field of green technologies.

Ostensibly, the EU's endeavor to foster a greener economy may reflect its fears of falling behind in a global transition to low carbon alternatives. But a fair argument is that, behind its promotion of clean energy, it has a long-term purpose of eventually achieving a monopoly in this field.

Developing countries would be forced to turn to the rich countries for technologies used in clean power generation, green household electronics and environment-friendly cars if they, unsuspectingly, committed themselves to disproportionate emissions cut targets, analysts said.

The EU, with its economic might, technological prowess, strict rules and regulations and high environmental standards, is capable of doing a smart job of creating "green trade barriers," they said.

Developing countries have paid dearly for the EU's such regulations as the Wastes Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE), the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (ROHS), the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) and the Eco-Design of Energy-Using Products (EUP).

As the lingering impacts of the financial crisis continue to spread, all indications point to growing trade protectionism in the EU. Such being the case, the EU will find it hard to resist the temptation to resort to "green trade barriers," analysts said.

(Xinhua News Agency December 14, 2009)