EU Parliament approves climate change package

18th December 2008, Comments 0 comments

The "20-20-20" climate package, which Europe hopes will serve as a model to other nations, will oblige EU nations to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels.

Strasbourg -- The European Parliament Wednesday approved the EU's climate change package, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020, lifting the last hurdle to the ambitious plan.

Six texts on the package, already agreed by the 27 European Union member states, were passed by a large majority of the parliamentarians present.

"We have sealed the climate package," said European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering, after the vote.

The so-called "20-20-20" climate package, which Europe hopes will serve as a model to other nations, will oblige EU nations to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, make 20 percent energy savings and bring the use of renewable energy sources up to 20 percent of the total.

The parliamentary approval came five days after EU heads of state and government worked out a compromise deal on the package at a summit in Brussels.

Within the overall EU targets, each EU nation and industry sector has its own obligations under the package, and last-minute dispensations were given, particularly to Warsaw and Berlin, which were concerned at the effects on industry.

German conservatives also complained that the package was too tough on industry and evoked the specter of "carbon leakage" whereby jobs would move out of a highly regulated region with no benefit to the European economy or the global environment.

However, environmental groups complain that the package was so watered-down in the attempts to reach a deal that the measures adopted will no longer deliver on the promised climate change targets.

"The parliament has marginalized itself by lacking the courage to make even small changes to the compromises negotiated by the EU summit last Friday," said Greenpeace EU climate and energy policy director Joris den Blanken. "Europe promised leadership on climate, but so far it has led us up the garden path. The climate package doesn't even take us half way to where we should be in the fight against climate change."

"This is not quite the third industrial revolution trumpeted when proposals were presented at the beginning of the year," complained Delia Villagrasa, senior advisor to WWF. "The 20 percent target sounds nice in words but is void because EU countries are allowed to accomplish approximately three quarters of the effort outside EU borders, which translates into European emission reduced by only 4-5 percent between now and 2020."

However, Swedish Liberal Democrat MEP Lena Ek hailed the agreement as "a win-win situation."

"Finally we have this package," she said. "In a period where we have to go through an economic crisis this package is a win-win situation. The green investments will create jobs and give our industry a lead. By adopting this set of measures we have confirmed Europe's leadership in tackling global warming."

"Mission accomplished," French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo told AFP. "We'll see the full benefit if we reach a global deal in Copenhagen."

The European Union hopes that its climate and energy package will serve as a model for the United States, China, India and other major polluters at international climate change talks to be held in Copenhagen next December.

The EU nations have said they are prepared to increase their greenhouse gas cuts to 30 percent if there is an international climate change deal.

The six texts adopted by the parliament constituted the main planks of the overall package -- renewable energy, emissions trading, carbon dioxide capture and storage, efforts by member states, overall reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and reducing car emissions.

All six went through with a large majority, with between 559 and 670 European deputies voting in favor out of the total of 785.

The plan must be formally published before its measures come into effect.

Christian Spillmann/AFP/Expatica

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