Italy threatens to veto costly EU climate change package

2nd December 2008, Comments 0 comments

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk have voiced reservations at the so-called '20-20-20' proposals.

Brussels -- Italy will veto ambitious European Union plans to tackle climate change unless changes are made to make the package less costly to industry and consumers, a minister warned Monday.

"If the climate package passes as it stands it will lead to a 17 percent hike in electricity bills for every Italian," Andrea Ronchi, Italy's European policy minister, told reporters in Brussels. "We think the package is a mistake. As it stands, it penalizes our industry, increases costs for citizens, threatens jobs and makes Italy poorer."

"We must find a fair agreement -- if that doesn't happen then the question of a veto emerges," he added.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk have already voiced reservations at the so-called '20-20-20' proposals which include a 20 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, a 20 percent cut in energy consumed and 20 percent use of renewable energy.

The package will require the unanimous approval of all 27 heads of state and government at an EU summit in Brussels on December 11-12.

While the main objectives were agreed last year, the devil is in the detail with nations and industries pleading their special cases as national and sectoral targets are thrashed out.

Poland, along with other eastern European members, is concerned its coal-dependent economies will be particularly hard hit by moves to make industry by its polluting rights.

"We note with satisfaction that we are not alone," in having concerns at the package, the Italian minister said.

Italy estimates its industry would have to spend between 18 billion and 25 billion euros (24 billion to 33 billion dollars) a year to reach the targets, though the European Commission contests the figures.

Ronchi told AFP that his country was "not satisfied" with the compromise being discussed on obligations imposed on automakers such as Italy's Fiat.

Italy rejects calls for high penalties to be levied against manufacturers who breach permitted levels for car emissions.

Ronchi also stressed the lack of unity among the EU's other major powers.

"Britain's (Prime Minister Gordon) Brown goes one way, (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel another, (French President Nicolas) Sarkozy goes his way and (Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis) Zapatero his," he said.

"It's a problem at a time when the European Union is going to be called upon more and more to speak with a single voice," he added.


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