EU leaders bid to hammer down climate package

12th December 2008, Comments 0 comments

But with even German Chancellor Angela Merkel, chief architect of the original package, threatening to block any deal that threatened jobs, some leaders voiced doubt the proposals would emerge from the summit intact.

Brussels -- Germany led a push to redraw an ambitious climate change package as EU leaders began a summit Friday, amid growing fears the deal could unravel as Europe slides into recession.

"Europe must not provide the spectacle of its own division," said French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country holds the revolving EU presidency, as he arrived at the summit in Brussels.

But with even German Chancellor Angela Merkel, chief architect of the original package, threatening to block any deal that threatened jobs, some leaders voiced doubt the proposals would emerge from the summit intact.

"It would mean a lot to the world if the EU can reach an agreement. Now a few countries want to wriggle out of what they have said earlier," said Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

"It's very complicated and I don't dare hope for too much," he told the Swedish news agency TT.

The EU's climate-energy package, the so-called "20-20-20" deal, seeks to decrease greenhouse gas emission by 20 percent by 2020, make 20 percent energy savings and bring renewable energy sources up to 20 percent of total energy use.

Europe wants to arrive at international climate talks in Copenhagen next December with a model scheme for the rest of the world, and has promised deeper cuts if there is a global deal.

While no one is openly seeking to dilute the overall European goals, agreed by all 27 EU nations last year, governments are increasingly unwilling to incur extra green costs for their industries with the eurozone in recession.

Merkel, who said in an interview earlier this week that she would oppose decisions that would endanger jobs or investment, said she expected "difficult negotiations".

Germany, Europe's biggest economy, went into recession in the last quarter.

Other European nations such as Italy and Poland have also voiced strong objections to the deal currently on the table.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi bluntly renewed his threat use his veto.

"If we don't get what we are asking for, then we will use our veto," he said.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, attending UN climate talks in Poland, said the outcome of the two-day summit in Brussels holds "great consequences for the whole world".

"We look for leadership from the European Union. The decisions currently being made by European leaders in Brussels are (of) great consequences for the whole world," he said.

To help broker a deal, the French EU presidency offered last-minute concessions to Warsaw, in a draft text seen by AFP late Wednesday.

Poland and its fellow eastern European nations are seeking special treatment as they are heavily reliant on high-polluting coal for their energy.

The fresh proposals suggested a new mechanism for sharing out CO2 quotas, with Poland and Romania getting a special allocation of 12 percent against the previously suggested 10 percent.

The energy sectors of heavily-coal dependent nations would also receive some free emissions allowances until 2019 under the plan.

The buzzword is "carbon leakage" whereby industry moves out of highly regulated, therefore more expensive, regions.

The Czechs are insisting upon dispensations for the power generation sector, while Italy wants a 2014 review of the renewables target.

Britain is opposed to part of the plan to give extra funding from the richer to the poorer EU nations.

One of the most controversial aspects of the climate change/energy package is the emissions trading system, whereby polluters can buy and sell their polluting rights.

Under the scheme, industry will increasingly have to buy these rights from 2013 rather than receiving them for free as they do at present, a plan that has raised industrialists' hackles.

Paul Harrington/AFP/Expatica

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