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27 May 2010

EU stops short of recommending 30% cut in emissions by 2020

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Climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard claims that economic crisis has made it cheaper to move to higher target

The European commission reopened the debate on whether Europe should volunteer to cut its carbon emissions further, but stopped short of recommending such a move.

Connie Hedegaard, climate commissioner, said the recession would make it cheaper than expected for the continent to hit its target to reduce carbon pollution 20% by 2020. Raising the target to 30% by 2020 would also cost less than first calculated.

Hedegaard said: "Whether to increase our reduction target for 2020 from 20% to 30% is a political decision for the EU leaders to take when the timing and the conditions are right. Obviously, the immediate political priority is to handle the [financial] crisis. But as we exit the crisis, the commission has now provided input for a fact-based discussion. The decision is not for now, but I hope that our analysis will inspire debate in the member states on the way forward."

The analysis had been widely trailed, but was altered to play down the merits of raising the targets after late objections from some countries. Early drafts said the 20% target was not enough; this was changed to the target being a first step. Today's communique also emphasises that the "conditions are not right" for such a move.

The document says it will cost €48bn a year to hit the 20% target, down from €70bn when the goal was set two years ago. The 30% target is estimated to cost €81bn a year. At present, the EU only plans to introduce the 30% target if other countries pledge similar cuts as part of a new global climate deal.

The commission's costs-benefits analysis of whether to shift to more ambitious carbon cutting targets presages a summer of infighting and intense lobbying across the EU. Sources in Brussels said Hedegaard is keen to commit to more ambitious European targets, but is being pressured by colleagues in the commission to hedge her bets.

Germany has been the strongest advocate of moving to a 30% target only in the context of a global agreement and of retaining the option as a bargaining chip in the climate change negotiations. The Italians and the east European members of the EU also oppose committing to 30% cuts.

(The Guardian)

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