Brussels (AFP) May 25, 2010
France and Germany on Tuesday gave a frosty response to the EU Commission's suggestion that Europe unilaterally bind itself to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020.
The message from German Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle and France's Industry Minister Christian Estrosi came on the eve of the publication of a commission paper laying out reasons for deepening Europe's emission cuts from 20 percent, the current agreed rate, to 30 percent compared with 1990 levels.
"We have shared our concerns at the commission's proposal," said Estrosi.
"The European Union is ready to adopt the 30 percent figure if other major economies make comparable undertakings," the French minister added.
Until now Europe has agreed only to cut emissions by 20 percent by 2020. The offer for a 30 percent reduction has been dependent upon similar undertakings by other large industrialised nations.
The EU's conditional 30 percent offer was put on the table, but not accepted, at last December's world climate talks in Copenhagen.
"We have the same analysis," Bruederle said at a joint press conference.
"We believe that after the failure of the Copenhagen summit, we must give ourselves a bit more time" before offering any further unilateral cuts in emissions, he added.
In its paper, a copy of which was seen by AFP, the EU's executive arm argues that "both the international context and the economic analysis suggest that the EU is right to continue preparing for a move to a 30 percent target."
"An EU target of 20 percent by 2020 is not enough to put emissions onto the right path" to reach the overall goal of keeping global warming below two degrees celsius, the paper stresses.
Its call must yet be backed by both the member states and the European parliament.
While the initiative is getting an enthusiastic response from the Green lobby, industrialists are not happy.
Until the rest of the industrialised world guarantees 30 percent cuts "our opinion is that the EU should not move unilaterally to further targets" said Axel Eggert, spokesman for the Eurofer iron and steel federation.
Otherwise an unwanted side-product will be "carbon leakage" where jobs and emissions move from a highly regulated region to one with laxer rules and targets, he argued.
The European bosses group, Business Europe, wrote to EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso on Tuesday detailing their opposition to such a move.
The commission argues that the extra economic effort required to reach the tougher reductions goal "while still substantial, has fallen."
It estimates now that the total cost of such a move would be some 81 billion euros, just 11 billion more than had originally been costed in for the agreed 20 percent emissions cut.
While European business leaders are concerned that this could lead to a lack of competitiveness, the EU Commission believes such a move would encourage the likes of China and India to move further to tackle global warming.
EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard. the former Danish climate minister who hosted the Copenhagen talks, will present the new paper on Wednesday.
It's proposals will then be considered by EU environment ministers next month before going to the 27 heads of state and government at a Brussels summit on June 17-18.
earlier related report
Germany's two biggest industry associations said they are against boosting the European Union's carbon dioxide emissions reduction target from 20 percent to 30 percent compared to 1990 levels.
"The German industry -- probably like no other in the world -- commits itself to climate protection," Werner Schnappauf, the head of the German BDI industry association, told Tuesday's Berliner Zeitung newspaper. "However, the BDI strongly opposes a unilateral tightening of the EU climate targets."
Martin Wansleben, the head of the DIHK industry association added that Europe "can't afford costly solo attempts."
The EU has committed itself to reduce its CO2 levels by 20 percent until 2020 and boosted that target to 30 percent if the world's other major emitters -- the United States and leading emerging economies such as India and China -- come together for a binding climate protection deal.
Such a deal failed to emerge from a U.N. climate summit in Denmark last year and it looks unlikely to be drafted this December when world nations meet again in Cancun, Mexico.
The EU has nevertheless signaled it wants to to boost its bloc-wide CO2 reduction target to revive the deadlocked climate negotiations and drive the price for carbon certificates.
Industrialized and developing nations are still at odds over how to limit the global temperature rise to no more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. A rise beyond that limit would result in potentially catastrophic consequences for humanity, with meteorological disasters increasing, scientists say.
Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard earlier this month said that due to the global economic downturn, the EU would need to spend only one-third of the costs originally envisaged to achieve the 20 percent cut, and for an extra $14 billion could jump to 30 percent.
Hedegaard, who was in charge of the Copenhagen climate summit, said the stricter cuts are also needed to drive up the price for carbon -- currently at less than $19 per ton.
"With business as usual and the 20 percent target we will not see a substantially higher price of carbon. That is a challenge because we need innovation," she was quoted as saying by British newspaper The Guardian. "At around $38 people would start to do things differently."
Hedegaard said she will unveil a study Wednesday that details those financials.
The plan is backed by Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen, who argues that the German industry, known for its efficient engineers and machinery, would benefit from more ambitious reduction targets.
The German industry doesn't buy that argument.
It is concerned that companies in regions with laxer emissions targets will have a competitive advantage. Moreover, it says, a boosted target would come at the worst time.
"In times when entire industries have bigger problems than ever, any additional burden threatens the recovery," Schnappauf told the newspaper.
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