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Eastern EU states table alternative CO2 targets

  • Countries from central and eastern Europe say Brussels should take into account their previous efforts in reducing pollution (Photo: EUobserver)

Updated 29 May - Seven countries in central and eastern Europe have proposed a different distribution of carbon dioxide emission targets to those tabled by the European Commission, arguing that the new regime should take into account previous efforts of member states in curbing climate change.

Under the proposal, most "new" EU member states would receive less strict targets, as would those member states that have already achieved the most in the fight against climate change, such as the UK, Sweden or Finland.

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On the other hand, it would demand more ambitious tasks for the current laggards in the green agenda, such as Spain and Portugal.

All the cuts would be calculated as 18 percent relative to Kyoto protocol target, meaning that Hungary's burden would be 11 percent lower, the UK's 8 percent lower but Spain's higher by 10 percent, as compared to the Commission's proposal.

The plan was drawn up by Hungary earlier this year and is supported by the three Baltic states, as well as Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia.

It has already been unveiled to EU experts in Brussels and will be officially presented to the bloc's environment ministers in Luxembourg next week, diplomats confirmed to EUobserver.

The key motive behind the move is for countries expected to see a more rapid industrial output in the coming years to achieve more generous emission quotas in the sectors not included in Europe's emissions trading scheme (ETS), set up in 2005.

The original blueprint by the EU executive itself applies a solidarity principle in allocations of quotas in the so-called non-ETS areas such as transport, waste, construction and farming, with richer countries receiving stricter targets than poorer ones.

But some experts from those member states have argued right from the very launch of the climate change package that with the region's prospects for economic growth and rise in industrial output - partly due to generous aid from EU coffers - such targets may not be sufficient.

Moreover, they are stressing that the commission's proposal does not fully take into consideration the previous efforts made by EU countries in fight against global warming.

Brussels earlier distributed national targets - needed for Europe as a whole to cut CO2 emissions by 20 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels - according to the member states' emissions and economic strength in the baseline year of 2005.

While that is the first year from which the commission obtains verified data for all its members, the central and eastern European countries complain that by then, they had already performed a great deal of pollution reduction.

"By 2005, a significant part of the 20 percent target, namely 7.9 percent, has already been realised," writes the paper seen by EUobserver and distributed on behalf of the seven countries.

"The Commission's proposals on the revised ETS and effort-sharing do not lend sufficient consideration to the early action undertaken by the relevant member states," it added.

The commission reacted coolly to the seven countries' move.

"The new member states have undergone economic restructuring rather than real efforts to cut emissions," said a spokesperson.

"In any case, we have applied a solidarity principle towards them in various ways, mainly by distributing the burdens according to GDP per capita," she added.

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