Paris, Berlin pour cold water on EU climate proposals

25th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

France and Germany on Tuesday gave a frosty response to the EU Commission's suggestion that Europe unilaterally bind itself to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020.

The message from German Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle and France's Industry Minister Christian Estrosi came on the eve of the publication of a commission paper laying out reasons for deepening Europe's emission cuts from 20 percent, the current agreed rate, to 30 percent compared with 1990 levels.

"We have shared our concerns at the commission's proposal," said Estrosi.

"The European Union is ready to adopt the 30 percent figure if other major economies make comparable undertakings," the French minister added.

Until now Europe has agreed only to cut emissions by 20 percent by 2020. The offer for a 30 percent reduction has been dependent upon similar undertakings by other large industrialised nations.

The EU's conditional 30 percent offer was put on the table, but not accepted, at last December's world climate talks in Copenhagen.

"We have the same analysis," Bruederle said at a joint press conference.

"We believe that after the failure of the Copenhagen summit, we must give ourselves a bit more time" before offering any further unilateral cuts in emissions, he added.

In its paper, a copy of which was seen by AFP, the EU's executive arm argues that "both the international context and the economic analysis suggest that the EU is right to continue preparing for a move to a 30 percent target."

"An EU target of 20 percent by 2020 is not enough to put emissions onto the right path" to reach the overall goal of keeping global warming below two degrees celsius, the paper stresses.

Its call must yet be backed by both the member states and the European parliament.

While the initiative is getting an enthusiastic response from the Green lobby, industrialists are not happy.

Until the rest of the industrialised world guarantees 30 percent cuts "our opinion is that the EU should not move unilaterally to further targets" said Axel Eggert, spokesman for the Eurofer iron and steel federation.

Otherwise an unwanted side-product will be "carbon leakage" where jobs and emissions move from a highly regulated region to one with laxer rules and targets, he argued.

The European bosses group, Business Europe, wrote to EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso on Tuesday detailing their opposition to such a move.

The commission argues that the extra economic effort required to reach the tougher reductions goal "while still substantial, has fallen."

It estimates now that the total cost of such a move would be some 81 billion euros, just 11 billion more than had originally been costed in for the agreed 20 percent emissions cut.

While European business leaders are concerned that this could lead to a lack of competitiveness, the EU Commission believes such a move would encourage the likes of China and India to move further to tackle global warming.

EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard. the former Danish climate minister who hosted the Copenhagen talks, will present the new paper on Wednesday.

It's proposals will then be considered by EU environment ministers next month before going to the 27 heads of state and government at a Brussels summit on June 17-18.

© 2010 AFP

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