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Last Updated: Friday, 18 January 2008, 10:35 GMT
EU climate policy 'too negative'
By Roger Harrabin
Environment analyst, BBC News

Chimneys
Heavy industry is already having to absorb increasing electricity prices
Green groups have accused the European Union of planning for failure in global climate change negotiations.

Europe's leaders promised last year to cut greenhouse gases by 20% by the end of the next decade, or by 30% if other big polluters made similar efforts.

But a draft document seen by BBC News shows that the European Commission is asking member states to just plan for the lower figure for the time being.

Campaigners say the lower target could harm the EU's leadership on the issue.

The EU Spring Council last year resolved that for Europe to play its part in avoiding dangerous climate change the EU needed to reduce greenhouse gases by 30% from 1990 levels before the end of the next decade.

But it didn't want to put European businesses at a disadvantage; so the council insisted that the US, Canada and Japan had to prove they were willing to do the same.

'Planning for failure'

The EU said it was pleased with progress at the recent climate talks in Bali, at which US negotiators agreed to join negotiations on future carbon cuts.

It is much easier for big industries to scale back from a tougher target than to scale up from a weaker one
Keith Allot,
WWF

Since then, the US has passed an Energy Bill designed to reduce emissions from cars and improve energy efficiency. And an increasing number of states are signing up for CO2 caps.

But the EU has apparently not yet seen enough reciprocal action from the other side of the Atlantic for Europe to plan for a 30% cut.

The draft document makes it clear that the EU will wait until a new global climate deal is settled before deciding on its final target. This could take two or more years.

So member states are being asked to plan for a 20% cut by 2020. The Commission sees this as a rational negotiating position, but green campaigners fear that any delay in planning for a 30% reduction will put it out of reach.

"This is planning for failure," said WWF spokesman Keith Allot.

"Europe should be planning for success in the climate talks. It is much easier for big industries to scale back from a tougher target than to scale up from a weaker one.

"If the EU decides on a 30% target that will be showing real leadership and will increase the moral pressure on America and the others."

A UK government source said the British government was pressing the Commission to ensure that the final text clearly lays out two sets of options for member states - one set based on a 20% cut and the other on a 30% cut.

Without clear reference to the 30% figure throughout, he said, the Americans would not take Europe seriously.

The European Commission on Wednesday will publish a whole raft of energy policy documents covering the EU Emissions Trading System, renewables and biofuels.

Many of the details are still being fiercely disputed as nations share out the burden of meeting their promises on the environment.

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