France, Germany call for deal on new EU climate pact

7th December 2008, Comments 0 comments

The plan faces resistance from former East bloc countries, which rely on heavily polluting coal-fired plants for energy and are demanding concessions.

Paris -- France and Germany called Sunday for a deal on a new EU climate pact to be reached at a Brussels summit this week, ratcheting up pressure on eastern European countries to come on board.

President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a day after he met with leaders of nine eastern European countries to address their objections to the plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

"They confirmed their shared desire to see that an agreement is reached at the European Council on the energy and climate package," said a statement issued by the French presidency.

European Union leaders hold a summit on Thursday and Friday to agree on the plan to cut 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and set new targets for developing renewal energy and switching to more efficient energy use.

The plan faces resistance from former East bloc countries, which rely on heavily polluting coal-fired plants for energy and are demanding concessions.

Sarkozy cited progress but no breakthrough following talks on Saturday in the northern Polish city of Gdansk with leaders from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

"We are not yet at the end of the discussion, but we have progressed," said Sarkozy, whose country holds the EU presidency until January 1.

"Today, I am optimistic that we can get there even if there is still a way to go," he said.

Sarkozy hopes to clinch a deal on climate change before France's EU presidency ends, passing the baton to the Czech Republic.

Germany and Italy have also expressed reservations, with Berlin in particular worried of an added burden placed on its heavy industry, which is already penalized by the economic slowdown.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said last week an agreement was "close" and that a revised version of the deal would allow Warsaw to avoid a veto.

Under the EU climate package, companies would have purchase rights to pollute.

Berlin wants most emissions allowances to be free for industry, whereas the EU proposals would have the percentage auctioned off gradually increased up to 100 percent in 2020, when every ton of carbon dioxide will have to be bought.

Negotiations on Europe's climate pact went into high gear as delegates were locked until Friday in UN talks in the Polish city of Poznan to agree on a new global climate pact, to be signed in late 2009.

Approval of a package of measures by EU leaders would brighten prospects for a UN climate deal to be agreed late next year in Copenhagen.

If approved, the European Parliament would vote on the package when it meets on December 17.

AFP/Expatica

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