Sunday

19th Jan 2020

EU countries set for scuffle over CO2 targets

The EU's desire to fight climate change will be put to the test as its 27 environment ministers meet in Brussels on Tuesday (20 February) to agree on common targets to reduce climate change – something member states are deeply divided over.

The main discussion at the meeting will be on by how much the EU should reduce its 1990 greenhouse gas emissions levels, with countries calling for binding targets of 20 percent, at least 20 percent, 30 percent or no binding target at all by 2020.

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  • Will EU environment ministers agree on an ambitious target? (Photo: Notat)

Germany – the current holder of the EU presidency – is proposing a binding target of 20 percent, which the European Commission is unhappy with as it believes the EU might have to take on a stronger commitment in the future.

The EU executive proposed in January that EU member states promote a 30 percent reduction of CO2 emissions by 2020 for developed countries in international negotiations - but added that the EU should aim for a lower at least 20 percent target if an international deal fails.

Two member states - Denmark and Sweden - are keen to go all the way and sign up for a 30 percent binding target for reducing 1990 CO2 levels by 2020 in the European Union, if a global target fails.

However, Hungary and Poland are not keen on the idea and would like to have no binding targets on reducing CO2 emission levels after 2012.

Finland also has strong reservations over the binding 20 percent target saying that as the member states have not decided on how to share the burden yet, there is no way of knowing how a target will affect the member states nationally, a Finnish diplomat told EUobserver.

Helsinki is said to be under strong pressure from its paper manufacturing industry to resist tough targets.

Meanwhile, environment ministers from Slovenia, Spain and the UK called in a joint letter on Monday (19 February) on all EU member states to stand up and commit to serious climate action.

"Of course, the climate change challenge will not be solved solely by the actions of the European Union. But we are 27 countries and over 490 million people. And in 2004, these 27 countries emitted over 6,000 million tonnes of greenhouse gases," the ministers said in the letter published online by BBC news.

"Failing to grasp this opportunity would have serious implications for further urgent progress - as well as for the credibility of the European Union as a strong and leading international environmental player," they added.

The ministers will also discuss into more detail how to share the burden of reducing CO2 emissions, as well as ways to capture its carbon emissions and store them - also an issue dividing member states as the technology is not yet fully developed.

A further item on ministers' schedule is the possible inclusion of airlines into the EU's emissions trading scheme, but "concrete ideas might not even come up until June," said one EU official.

Another thorny topic on the agenda are targets on renewable energy and the use of biofuels – something EU's economy ministers were unable to agree to when meeting in Brussels last week.

Last week's meeting saw more than 10 member states keen to sign up to a binding target of 20 percent renewable energy consumption by 2020, but the remaining 17 were reluctant amid uncertainty on the impact of industrial reforms individual states would have to undertake to hit the EU goal.

The ministerial meetings will serve as a basis energy talks by EU leaders on 8-9 March, with the commission then set to propose a raft of new energy laws in autumn.

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The European Parliament has said that the greenhouse gas cuts recently proposed by the European Commission are insufficient. Some MEPs argue, however, that the EU assembly should get its own house in green order first.

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