Kate Connolly

Report outlines daunting task of CO2 targets. Insulation more effective than new power stations

THE EUROPEAN Union's new climate change goals will cost up to euro 1.1 trillion to implement over the next 14 years, according to a new study.

The most comprehensive investigation on managing the economics of climate change paints a daunting picture of the EU's plan to decrease greenhouse gases by at least 20 per cent by 2020. But the study by the consulting firm McKinsey published in a German newspaper on Tuesday, argues it is both economically and technically possible to reduce emissions on schedule, but that the political effort necessary will be immense.

"On the basis of a balanced, sensible application of the most easily accessible technology, we're calculating that the EU states will face annual costs of between euro 60 billion and euro 80 billion up until 2020," said Thomas Vahlenkamp, a McKinsey energy expert.

The EU heads of state agreed on the bloc's environmental goals at its meeting on March 9, but did not discuss how costs and targets would be met. A Cost Curve for Greenhouse Gas Reduction offers a detailed breakdown of the potential costs of reducing carbon emissions across different sectors, from forestry to transportation.

The study says that technology, such as energy-saving lightbulbs and windpower, is capable of reducing three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve cost-effective results, it says politicians should concentrate on implementing the cheapest and most effective environmental measures first, rather than the cost-heavy solutions such as building CO2-free coal power stations.

"The potential in building insulation should be given much more attention," Mr. Vahlenkamp said. "There is a wealth of cost-free possibilities that would neither negatively effect our lifestyles nor our comfort."

The report explains that it is easier and cheaper to reduce energy use than to capture and store byproducts of fossil fuels, such as CO2. The study says it is possible for the world to reduce CO2 levels by 27 billion tonnes by 2030, a figure at which, scientists suggest, global warming may be curbed.

The study criticises the EU for giving priority to reducing emissions in electricity generation, which has the potential to lower its CO2 emissions by 6 billion tonnes by 2030, while failing to give at least equal attention to the forestry industry that could reduce its share by 7 billion tonnes through improved management.

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006