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28 May 2010

EU cools rhetoric on deeper unilateral emissions cuts

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The European Commission, under pressure from industry and member states, on Wednesday cooled its enthusiasm for the EU to unilaterally commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent.

"Are conditions right? Would it make sense at this moment? The answer would be no," admitted EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, presenting a much-awaited climate paper.

A day earlier Germany, France and others had voiced opposition to the main thrust of the paper, that the EU should consider unilaterally deepening its pledged emissions cuts from 20 percent, as currently agreed, to 30 percent by 2020.

The Brussels backpedalling from the 30 percent goal was most evident in a few very late changes to its published paper.

"The purpose of this communication is not to decide now to move to a 30 percent target: the conditions set are clearly not met," the final version insists in a sentence absent from an earlier draft seen by AFP last week.

At her press conference the EU commissioner said any decision to increase the reduction target "is a political decision for the EU leaders to take when the timing and the conditions are right... The decision is not for now."

"Back to realism," was how the relieved European steel industry body Eurofer greeted Hedegaard's comments, as Europe struggles out of recession.

Many capitals will happily put such considerations on the back burner as they struggle with the more pressing task of pulling their economies out of a debt stranglehold.


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