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Last Updated: Friday, 21 March 2008, 09:09 GMT
EU 'committed' to stiff CO2 cuts
By Roger Harrabin
BBC environment analyst

Europe's environment chief Stavros Dimas says the EU's leaders are still committed to ambitious CO2 cuts of up to 30% by 2020, despite the appearance of back-tracking at last week's European summit.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas (AP)
Mr Dimas said the EU had set itself ambitious CO2 goals

Mr Dimas said it was natural for national leaders to debate the precise details of how the cuts would be implemented - but that did not suggest a weakening of overall resolve.

Green groups gave a shudder last week when they heard Europe's big players - especially Germany - were looking for a climate deal that would protect some of the most polluting industries and allow the continued manufacture of gas-guzzling luxury cars.

But in an interview for BBC News, Commissioner Dimas said necessary concessions made to protect jobs would not jeopardise Europe's 2020 targets on CO2.

He admitted that Europe's industries were involved in ferocious lobbying to win favourable terms from the regime of carbon cuts.

And he agreed that Europe's goals would seem even more ambitious when emissions from international aviation and shipping, which are currently not included in the targets, were taken into account.

Minimum standards

Mr Dimas supported Gordon Brown's plan for lower VAT levels on energy-saving products.

Without regulation to channel their power, markets will not deliver things which are of no immediate benefit to the individual making his or her choice, even though they may be beneficial to society.
Sir Mark Moody-Stuart

"I support it. I think it's a good idea. I hope that after a good reception at the European Council it will materialise," he said.

"It will be good for fighting climate change, and good for consumers to have the possibility to purchase environmentally friendly products at cheaper prices. " Mr Dimas said that the VAT proposal was part of a broader study of green fiscal measures. "It could be a lowering of VAT or giving a subsidy for insulation, or an interest free loan, to retrofit existing buildings. The Commission will work up proposals which will be simple and effective. And the adoption by the European Council of the UK proposal is very positive and promising."

He said he expected the measure to be agreed in time and was confident that the Commission would iron out difficulties of definition over energy-saving products.

He also said that he personally sympathised with a plea made on the BBC recently by the former Shell boss Sir Mark Moody-Stuart.

In a Green Room article he urged the EU to set minimum standards for car efficiency in the same way they set minimum standards for fridges.

That would mean big polluters like Porsche or Rolls-Royce would have to radically change the way they make their cars or be banned from sale.

Mr Dimas said there was a clear ethical case for this argument - but that Europe had to protect its own industries too - and would stick by the current policy of asking manufacturers to produce 130g of CO2/km across the fleet.

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