EU agrees bold climate change pact

9th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

9 March 2007, Brussels (dpa) - European Union leaders Friday vowed tough measures to curb greenhouse-gas emissions and increase renewable energy use, describing the deal as the world's most ambitious pact to fight climate change. Key details of the agreement, including a nation-by-nation distribution of the cuts, will be hammered out in tough negotiations among EU states in the coming months. "There are still many important steps ahead of us. Now the burden- sharing will take place ... there will be tough

9 March 2007

Brussels (dpa) - European Union leaders Friday vowed tough measures to curb greenhouse-gas emissions and increase renewable energy use, describing the deal as the world's most ambitious pact to fight climate change.

Key details of the agreement, including a nation-by-nation distribution of the cuts, will be hammered out in tough negotiations among EU states in the coming months.

"There are still many important steps ahead of us. Now the burden- sharing will take place ... there will be tough negotiations," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel who chaired the two-day meeting.

Papering over earlier divisions on key climate change issues, leaders of the 27-nation bloc vowed to make a unilateral cut of 20 per cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

This will be raised to a 30 per cent reduction in emissions provided other industrialized nations like the US follow suit. The EU also wants emerging nations and key polluters like China and India to make "adequate contributions" to achieve the goals.

In a breakthrough move, EU leaders also agreed on a binding 20 per cent increase in the share of renewable energy in overall EU consumption by 2020.

The mandatory target will increase EU utilisation of renewable energies - wind, solar and water - threefold compared to current levels.

Leaders also made a commitment to boost the use of biofuels in transport petrol and diesel consumption in all member states to 10 per cent by 2020.

"We have opened the door to a completely new form of cooperation ... it is a qualitative breakthrough," said Merkel.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair described the hard-won accord as "ground-breaking" and said the deal gave the EU a "leadership role" on the global stage.

However, in a sign of tough talks ahead, leaders did not set national targets for achieving the EU-wide climate change goals. Merkel said this would involved a scrutiny of "national differences."

"Every member state regards itself to be a special case," said Merkel.

The 20 per cent targets for slashing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the share of renewable energies have been set for the 27- nation bloc as a whole, not for specific member states, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters.

Individual EU nations will therefore decide on national targets for each specific sector of renewable energies and for cutting emissions, he said.

Barroso said the commission would make proposals on the national share-out in autumn, adding that the distribution would take account of EU countries' different economic development levels and energy profiles.

The accord reconciled the tough pro-renewable stance of Germany, Britain, Luxembourg, Sweden and Denmark with demands from EU central and eastern European states like Poland that they needed more time and resources to meet the target.

France, backed by the Czech Republic and other EU central and eastern states, managed to get a reference to nuclear power in the final text which said that each country had the right to decide on its own energy mix.

But anti-nuclear states like Austria blocked French attempts to have nuclear power treated as a low-carbon energy source.

It was unclear if the deal would provide for sanctions against nations which fail to meet their climate change targets.

Environmental group WWF said the EU deal set the "right path" to control global warming but warned that the EU must put in place laws and measures so that the goal does not remain "hot air."

"It is clear that the targets decided today will only be achieved with solid laws, measures and incentives," said WWF's Stephan Singer. He said the targets must be translated into a shift of investments towards green technologies, rather than to nuclear power stations.

Promising to follow up words with actions, Merkel said it would be "a bad signal" to the rest of the world if Europe did not stick to the deal.

The EU has so far succeeded in reducing its emissions by 3 per cent below the 1990 level, but much more needs to be done to reach the 8 per cent emission reduction targets agreed in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, according to the European Commission.

EU businesses oppose the setting of legally binding targets on renewable energy, arguing this would put Europe at a disadvantage compared to competitors.

Merkel said, however, that even "with the best will in the world," she could not estimate the cost of investments in renewables. But Barroso insisted that doing nothing to combat climate change would also hurt EU economies.

The EU accounts for about 14 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions while the United States, the largest emitter, produces some 25 per cent.

The EU's new stance will be the basis for new negotiations on a new international climate-change treaty, which would replace the current Kyoto Protocol as of 2012.

DPA

Subject: German news

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