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EU environment ministers call for action on climate

Date: 29-Oct-13
Country: BELGIUM/UK
Author: Barbara Lewis and Nina Chestney

EU environment ministers call for action on climate Photo: Fredrik Varfjell
British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey speaks during the final day of the Oslo Energy Forum at the Holmenkollen Park Hotel in Oslo February 15, 2013, in this picture provided by NTB Scanpix.
Photo: Fredrik Varfjell

Thirteen European environment ministers urged the European Union on Monday to adopt ambitious energy and climate goals for 2030 or risk falling behind the rest of the world.

In a 40-page document released in Brussels, they also called on the 28-nation bloc to reform the EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS) and said environmental action need not clash with efforts to limit energy prices.

On the contrary, some EU nations with high levels of renewable energy have relatively low energy prices and are also benefiting from exporting renewable technology, they said.

"The EU has been leading this market, but the Chinese and U.S.A. are seeing this as an opportunity and are catching up," Ed Davey, Britain's energy and climate change secretary, told a Brussels conference.

"My concern is that the EU is not moving anywhere near fast enough, but for a number of reasons political and economic, we are not getting our act together this time around."

Britain has said the European Union as a whole needs to promise a 50 percent cut in emissions by 2030 compared with 1990 levels in the context of an expected U.N. deal to be agreed in 2015 in Paris.

Of that, 10 percent could come from international carbon offsets, and the rest would be a cut in domestic EU emissions.

While the 13 ministers, who call themselves the Green Growth Group, agree on the need for action, they differ on detail.

Britain wants only one carbon-cutting goal, while Denmark favors three targets - on carbon, renewables and energy savings. Portugal also wants a fourth goal to improve energy infrastructure.

So far, the European Union has three 2020 targets - to cut emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels, increase renewable use to 20 percent of the total and improve efficiency to reduce energy use by 20 percent from projected consumption levels.

HOW DEEP TO CUT?

For 2030, Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said the Commission, the EU executive, was analyzing the impact of respective EU cuts of 35 percent, 40 percent and 45 percent.

Depending on that analysis, it will propose a target as part of a package of climate and energy legislation, probably early next year.

EU leaders will then discuss the proposals at a Brussels summit in March ahead of a September summit hosted by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, which is meant to pave the way for the next global U.N. deal in 2015.

Hedegaard said it was imperative that business help to spur debate at EU level, or policy uncertainty otherwise could drag on for years, particularly in view of elections in the European Parliament and a change-over of Commissioners next year.

Not all companies are as progressive as those such as Dong Energy and Royal Dutch Shell that lent their voices to Monday's call for action, she said.

"My concern is that there are some organized interests that are too much advocating business as usual," Hedegaard said.

Ahead of EU and global climate decisions in 2014 and 2015, EU member Poland will host climate talks in Warsaw in November.

With its coal-dependent economy, Poland has resisted deeper emissions cuts and anything else that could drive up the EU carbon price and make it more expensive to burn coal.

But earlier this month, Poland promised to lead the call for deeper international emissions cuts, and Hedegaard said she hoped a short-term fix to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme would be agreed "in weeks rather than months", paving the way for deeper reform.

The carbon market is trading at below 5 euros a metric ton, nowhere near enough to engineer a shift to green fuel use, because of a glut of permits following economic recession.

One reform under consideration is a mechanism to regulate the supply of EU carbon permits. On that issue, Hedegaard said the Commission had not taken a firm decision.

(Editing by Elizabeth Piper and Jane Baird)

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