The Kyoto Protocol suffers from two major deficiencies. First, several nations with major potential contributions to global warming are either exempt or, ahem, boycotting it until the exempt nations step up to the challenge. Second, it is already obsolete--having been intended as a target to get the ball rolling, not as a final solution. And while unsatisfactory compromises often characterize the EU's bureaucratic process, Merkel has succeeded in leveraging her 6-month Presidency of the EU to create a monumental Energy plan. The EU's move clearly shames developed nations which are shying commitments that scientists now agree are necessary for the long-term health of the planet in the interest of short term economic policy.Merkel succeeded to commit all EU member countries to detailed and binding plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 20% below their 1990 levels by the year 2020. Merkel used Germany's target of 40% renewables to off-set France's preference for nuclear power and persuade Chirac to back the EU-wide goal of 20% renewables. Blaire backed Merkel fully, putting Britain's intention to reduce CO2 60% (from 1990 levels) by 2050 on the table. The pact is characterized by flexibility and cooperation, but the goals are measurable commitments backed by the accountability of each member state to achieve its goals. Maintaining competitiveness by strategic legislative measures is a keystone of the EU's energy plan. Additionally, the EU has offered to increase the goal of 20% reduction to 30% if other nations--such as America, China, India and Russia--will follow suit. In front of the UN's upcoming talks to find a successor for the Kyoto Protocol, the EU's bold stance may indeed prove to be the leadership that dominates the history books of the future.
How Europe Can Save the World boasted the headline in The Guardian as it welcomed the "deal which is arguably the most important since (the European Union's) foundation 50 years ago." TreeHugger scooped the major media to bring you the EU's ambitious energy plan with the critical question: "Is there value in leadership if no one is following?" Now, we have the chance to find out.