Ministers to decide EU climate targets for 2020

Commission proposals to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020 should receive backing by the Environment Council on 20 February, despite opposition from Hungary and Poland.

EU environment ministers are expected to endorse a Commission proposal, presented on 10 January 2007, to reduce the EU’s greenhouse-gas emissions “unilaterally” by 20% by 2020 compared with 1990 levels, the reference year under the Kyoto Protocol.

But the ministers’ conclusions, which are traditionally adopted unanimously among the 27 nation-bloc, are leaving some members unhappy. “Hungary and Poland are worried by the binding nature of the targets,” an EU official said on 19 February.

However, the last-minute squabble is likely to be tempered due to support from other member states. In similar conclusions adopted unanimously on 15 February, energy ministers said that the Council “supports ambitious overall EU targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions for 2020 as a key component of the global action” to mitigate global warming (EURACTIV 16/02/07).

The ministers’ conclusions will be presented to EU leaders for final endorsement at a summit on 8-9 March in Brussels. They will then be followed up by a formal legislative proposal later in the year.

Officials in Brussels said on 19 February that “most” EU countries were also in favour of raising the 20% “unilateral” target to 30% if an international deal is reached to reduce emissions from all developed nations, including the United States. Sweden and Denmark would even support making this target legally binding, even if there is no international agreement, but they are isolated in this view.

Meanwhile, Finland said on 9 February that it had “doubts” over the Commission’s proposals but added that it would not oppose the plan. “Finland is not convinced of the use of a unilateral goal in speeding up negotiations and sees the model as complicated,” the environment ministry said in a statement.

EU ministers will also discuss the issue of burden sharing, or the CO2 reductions for which each country is to take responsibility under the overall European target. But this issue leaves Finnish Industry Minister Mauri Pekkarinen concerned that the effects would be felt disproportionately by his country.

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