France, Germany pour cold water on EU climate proposals

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France and Germany gave a less than warm response Tuesday to a EU Commission suggestion that Europe unilaterally binds itself to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020.

Their criticism came on the eve of the publication of a commission paper laying out reasons for deepening Europe's emission cuts from the currently agreed 20 percent compared with 1990 levels.

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

"The European Union is ready to adopt the 30 percent figure if other major economies make comparable undertakings," the minister said, referring to the suggestion not accepted at world climate talks in Copenhagen in December.

"We have the same analysis," German Economy Minister Rainer 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 said.

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 be backed by EU member states and the European parliament.

The initiative has met with an enthusiastic response from the Green lobby but 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.

An unwanted side-effect could 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 the total cost of such a move would be about 81 billion euros (99 billion dollars), 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.

The proposals will 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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