On 16 February 2005, the Kyoto Protocol to address climate change enters into force. It obliges the EU to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 8% until 2012 as compared to 1990. For the future even more dramatic reductions will be needed. EU and member states leaders such as Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac or Gerhard Schrí¶der have repeatedly spoken of EU long-term reduction commitments of up to 50% or even 60% by 2050.
Reductions in the industrialised countries only will however not suffice. In 2030 at the latest, developing countries will have overtaken industrialised countries in absolute terms of emissions. Full engagement of all developing and industrialised countries alike will be needed.
As current EU polices including the EU CO2 emissions trading scheme will not suffice, the EU heads of government have put "medium and longer term emission reduction strategies" on their agenda of this year's Spring European Council in March. The outcome of the Spring Council is considered to guide EU climate change policy for the time to come. At the same time, the EU is also considering reviewing the emissions trading scheme. Principal expected changes are extension to the transport sector, notably air transport, linking to non-EU schemes as well as expansion to non-CO2 gases. In parallel, international negotiations within the UN on the scope and nature of future commitments for the period when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 have already begun.
The third Annual Brussels Climate Change Conference will bring together the European Commissioner for the environment, the Chairman of European Parliament Environment Committee and the climate change co-ordinator of the the forthcoming UK EU presidency, CEOs and other senior business executives and non-governmental organisations to mull over strategies and opportunities and threats different options provide.
This years' theme will be "EU climate change policy beyond Kyoto: Building a global climate change agreement" and cover i) EU climate change policy after the Spring Council, ii) transport and air transport in particular, iii) developing the EU ETS further and finally, iv) mitigation and technology solutions. The European Commissioner for the environment, Stavros Dimas will provide a first hand assessment on the results of the Spring Council.