/ 23 January 2008

EU adopts blueprint for climate fight

The European Union’s executive adopted landmark proposals on Wednesday that will make the 27-nation bloc a world leader in the fight against climate change, but trade-offs will include higher energy bills.

The European Commission approved detailed plans to cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions by one-fifth and set each EU state individual targets to produce one-fifth of all power from renewable sources like the wind and sun by 2020.

Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called the fiercely disputed package ”the right policy framework for transformation to an environment-friendly European economy and to continue to lead the international action to protect our planet”.

Another goal was to ensure the bloc’s energy security as remaining fossils fuels become concentrated among fewer nations.

”We do not want to be dependent on regimes that are not our friends and want to protect ourselves from them,” Barroso told the European Parliament in presenting the plan.

The commission aims to spur talks among industrialised countries for a global climate deal by 2009 to arrest global warming, which risks raising sea levels and causing more floods and droughts.

Environmentalists say the planned cuts are too small to achieve that goal or give a strong lead to the world and urged the EU to cut emissions unilaterally by 30% by 2020.

Brussels softened its plans at the last minute to placate anxious industry leaders, who fear higher energy costs will tilt competitiveness further in favour of China and India, which have no emissions limits, at a time of record oil prices.

The commission agreed that energy-intensive industries, possibly including steel, aluminium and cement, would get all emissions permits for free. If there were no global deal to curb emissions, succeeding the Kyoto Protocol after 2012, the EU would consider forcing importers to buy permits.

EU enterprise commissioner Guenter Verheugen, standard-bearer of the interests of heavy industry, told German television: ”I am all for setting an example for the rest of the world. But I am against committing economic suicide.” — Reuters