BRUSSELS: European Union government leaders have agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and introduce an EU-wide binding target for renewable energy of at least 27 percent.
The target is the EU's contribution to the U.N. global climate change agreement due to be concluded in Paris next year. The renewables target will reduce the EU's dependency on fossil fuels from Russia and the Middle East.
Outgoing European Commission president José Manuel Barroso described the decision as ambitious: "We are now going from a goal of 20 percent cut by 2020 compared to 1990 to 40 percent by 2030, so, doubling the effort. So, this is indeed a very ambitious, but also achievable target."
Connie Hedegaard, EU commissioner for Climate Action added: "A binding 40 percent CO2 reduction effort domestically in Europe is not an easy task. It can only be achieved through a major transformation in all parts of the society...We have sent a strong signal to other big economies and all other countries: we have done our homework, now we urge you to follow Europe's example."
The EU decision coincides with a report from U.S. nonprofit sustainability advocacy group Ceres that has rated the preparedness of the largest U.S. insurance companies to the increased risk of climate change.
The 330 companies were ranked on a four-tier scoring system, based on a 100-point scale, that included "Leading," "Developing," "Beginning" and "Minimal" grades.
Only nine companies – three percent overall – received the "Leading" rank, including ACE, Munich Re, Swiss Re, Allianz, Prudential, XL Group, The Hartford, Sompo Japan and Zurich. The Hartford and Prudential is the only U.S.-headquartered insurers among the nine firms. The rest of the 330 earned "Beginning" or "Minimal" ratings.
"Despite being on the 'front line' of climate risks, most of the company responses show a profound lack of preparedness in addressing climate-related risks and opportunities," said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres.
Tony Kuczinksi, president and CEO of Munich Re America added: "Climate change presents complex risks to the property and casualty insurance industry, but it also presents a number of business opportunities. We see tremendous opportunity for our industry to take a leadership role in addressing climate change by delivering solutions that not only transfer risk but incentivize its reduction."
Ceres found that barely 10 percent of the insurers have issued public climate risk management statements about their understanding of climate science and its implications - despite paying out US$29 billion on insured losses from Hurricane Sandy.