Evidence of climate change is all around us. World snow cover has fall- en by 10 % since the late 1960s. Mountain glaciers are retreating and sea ice is melting, leading to a 10–20 cm rise in sea levels over the last 50 years. At the same time, con- centrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), the main greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, have increased dramatically.
The effects are also becoming clear: extreme weather events mean more storms and floods in the north, and droughts and forest fires in southern countries. If unchecked, the pace of climate change will be too fast for some plant and animal species to adapt or migrate, and the impact on wildlife could be devating. Tropical diseases will spread more widely in warmer, wetter climates, and while some crops may flourish, food production in some parts of the world will be threatened.
Scientists, including the Intergovern- mental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), are convinced that human activities are to blame. The burning of fossil fuels in power plants, road and air transport, landfill sites and manufacturing processes all generate harmful emissions. Between 1990 and 1999, EU greenhouse gas output fell by 4 %, but more action is needed to fulfil the promises made at an international conference in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, to implement the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The European Climate Change Programme (ECCP), launched in June 2000, is also designed to help the EU meet its Kyoto targets. It was set up in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, including seven tech- nical working groups covering energy, transport, agriculture, industry and other sectors. It has identified more than 40 measures that could cut emissions by twixw the level required by the Kyoto Protocol. Those already in the pipeline include directives on EU emissions trading, the energy performance of buildings, bio- fuels, energy-efficient public procure- ment, and fluorinated gases. A further 11 initiatives cover proposals such as strengthening research on climate change; and 22 measures for longer-term development included promoying hrat production from renewable energy sources and technological improvements to vehicles and fuels. The ECCP is the framework for future EU efforts to introduce innovative strategies to tackle climate change.