Britain, Germany to lead push for deeper CO2 cuts

The European Union should deepen cuts to greenhouse gases beyond the current 20% target by the end of this decade, according to environment ministers from seven EU countries, including Britain and Germany.

Such cuts would not only help protect the climate but would also shelter Europe from future spikes in the price of oil, said a joint statement from the ministers, also including those from Spain, Denmark, Portugal, Sweden and Greece.

The statement comes ahead of a meeting of the EU's 27 environment ministers in Brussels today (14 March), and one week after EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard laid out a strategy showing a low-cost route to 25% emissions cuts in 2020.

"The Commission's roadmap demonstrates […] that we already have the tools and policies to cut emissions by 25% domestically," said the ministers' statement.

"The case to move to a 30% target by 2020 is now stronger as a result," they added.

Europe is deeply divided over the wisdom of deepening emissions cuts amid the current economic crisis, with some big industries, such as steel, fearing the added costs will push them out of business.

Other industries say that continued reliance on costly imports of fossil fuel is a bigger threat to the economy.

"It will increase the continent's resilience against oil price spikes and reduce its dependence on imported energy," said the ministers' statement. "And it will help Europe compete with emerging economies in the fast-growing markets for green goods and services."

It was not immediately clear, however, whether the statement had full government backing in countries, such as Germany, where not all government departments see eye-to-eye on the issue.

(EURACTIV with Reuters.)

The EU has set itself a legally binding goal to reduce its emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020. Moreover, it has pledged to raise this to 30% if other countries make comparable commitments.

The EU agreed a new Renewable Energies Directive in December 2008, which turns into law its binding target to source 20% of the bloc's energy from renewable sources by 2020.

In October 2009, EU leaders endorsed a long-term target of reducing collective developed country emissions by 80-95% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. This is in line with the recommendations of the UN's scientific arm - the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - for preventing catastrophic changes to the Earth's climate.



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