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14 October 2010

EU to leave decision on CO2 cuts until next year

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Environment ministers are meeting today (14 October) in Luxembourg to set out the EU's strategy for the UN climate conference in Cancún at the end of the year. No decision is expected on whether to raise the bloc's CO2 emission target 

The ministers will revisit the thorny issue of increasing the EU's target of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020 to 30%. So far, there has been no consensus on the issue, and a breakthrough is not expected at tomorrow's meeting either.

Draft conclusions from the meeting state that the EU will wait for the European Commission to draw up a 2050 low-carbon roadmap before any unilateral move to 30%, according to diplomatic sources.

The roadmap, scheduled for early next year, will set out a trajectory for emissions cuts with intermediate targets for 2030 and 2040, which could help put the 2020 target into perspective, they said.

The procedural take on the matter by environment ministers at this stage reflects a deep divide between two blocks of member states. While a group of Western European countries including the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands argues that raising the EU goal is in its own interests, many Eastern and Central European member states and Italy, among others, say doing so must be conditional on similar commitments from other nations within the international negotiations for a new climate treaty.

Last year, EU emissions were already 17.3% below 1990 levels, dragged down by the recession, according to recent figures from the European Environment Agency (EEA).

EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard is known to think that as things stand, the 20% target no longer gives businesses a sufficient incentive to invest in low-carbon innovation. She has promised that the Commission will work to analyse how higher climate ambitions would affect individual member states.

EU employers' organisation BusinessEurope wrote to the Belgian chair of the Environment Council, Joke Schauvliege, ahead of the meeting, warning that a move to 30% would be counter-productive in the absence of an international climate agreement.


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