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EU to unveil climate plan amid industry, national hostility

by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) Jan 22, 2008
The European Commission will on Wednesday unveil sweeping plans to fight global warming, under heavy fire from industry and many EU member countries over the possible costs of the scheme.

Consumers too will not escape the costs, which Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said would amount to a total of around 60 billion euros (86.6 billion dollars) a year -- 0.5 percent of gross domestic product.

Commission officials, however, have said the bill might be double that.

The package is an attempt by the EU executive to translate into action the aim of EU leaders, announced last March, to cut emissions of the gases that cause climate change by 20 percent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels.

The measures, including a new look at state aid for environment projects, will set the 27 nations specific targets for renewable energy use, to ensure that 20 percent of the bloc's energy in 2020 comes from these forms.

The Commission has come under attack from virtually all sides, including in-house, even before the plans are examined by EU countries and the European Parliament, a process Brussels hopes to conclude by the end of the year.

"These proposals are going to raise electricity prices for households and enterprises. This has to be openly said to citizens," said Guenter Verheugen, a Commission vice-president and one of the powers in the executive body.

Energy intensive industry -- like power plants -- would pay a high price.

Carbon dioxide emissions from industry totalled more than two billion tonnes in 2005, around half of the greenhouse gases produced in the EU. Much of the other half comes from transport and agriculture.

Under the EU's emissions trading scheme, set to expire in 2012, nearly 12,000 energy-intensive plants can buy or sell permits to emit carbon dioxide.

In future such permits, currently provided free, would be managed by member states and gradually increase in price. The system would also be extended to other sectors like aviation, petrochemicals, ammonia and aluminium.

Some companies have complained they could be forced to move abroad, taking jobs with them, and according to Green MEP Claude Termes, major steelmakers were knocking on the Commission's door on Monday.

The threat to employment is a powerful argument, but Barroso has warned that the energy and climate status quo is unacceptable.

"Taking action is not cost free," he said Monday. The price of inaction "could even approach 20 percent of GDP. The longer we delay, the higher the costs," he added.

EU countries are concerned about the burden they will have to assume on renewable energy.

Around 8.5 percent of the bloc's energy comes from renewable forms, like biomass, wind and solar power, but future load sharing will be based on GDP; simply put, on a nation's wealth.

This has particularly angered Sweden, which already derives around 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources, but could, according to Green party calculations be asked to raise that to 52.7 percent.

Stockholm argues that it is being punished, rather than rewarded, for the eco-friendly efforts it has already made.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has demanded that the maths be done on the basis of pollution emitted per habitant, but poorer coal intensive countries in central Europe would struggle to bear the load.

It is all a far cry from the fanfare with which the EU's goals were unveiled less than a year ago.

Barroso said he hoped EU nations would react positively Wednesday, "as we have worked closely with them (on this) and, I stress again, we are following the lines set unanimously by the EU's political leaders."

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Carbon Disclosure Project to assess world business CO2 footprint
Washington (AFP) Jan 20, 2008
The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a consortium of 315 top institutional investors assessing industries about their CO2 emissions, announced Sunday a new partnership to extend its global initiative to companies and suppliers.

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