Climate row claims first victim ahead of EU summit

October 15th, 2008 - 7:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Brussels, Oct 15 (DPA) A simmering row over the European Union’s (EU) plans for fighting climate change seemed to have claimed its first victim Wednesday as the French government dropped plans to propose a common set of rules on how to cut greenhouse gas emissions.The EU has set itself the goal of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

However, member states are still arguing over how to achieve the target.

France currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, and ahead of Wednesday’s summit in Brussels the French government had hoped that member states would sign up to a set of guidelines which they would follow when finalising EU laws on how to hit the climate targets.

But following objections from EU members, the latest draft of the summit declaration, agreed hours before the meeting and simply says that France “has presented, on its own responsibility, the guidelines which it will follow as work continues”.

The French government’s guidelines begin by stating that the legally binding climate-change targets proposed by the European Commission, the EU’s executive, are “acceptable in principle”.

They go on to suggest how the EU should handle sensitive issues such as making electricity generators pay for permits to emit CO2, protecting energy-intensive industries and spending the revenues generated by selling CO2 emission permits.

But a number of EU member states objected to those statements, with Central and Eastern European member states in particular saying that they do not find the commission’s basic principles acceptable.

They say the EU’s plans should give them “recognition” for efforts they made to cut their CO2 emissions before 2005, when emissions fell sharply after the collapse of their communist-era industries.

Furthermore, the EU’s leaders are not expected to reach a final deal until December, leading some member states to argue that it is too soon to issue a set of rules on how the debate should continue.

Other member states, such as Italy, have also warned that the current financial crisis will make the climate package too costly.

Any decision on the climate-change laws will under EU rules be taken by qualified-majority voting, meaning that it would take several member states together to block the laws.

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