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Planet Ark World Environment News EU Minister Meeting To Tackle Carbon Cuts: Draft

Date: 04-Jun-12
Country: BELGIUM
Author: Barbara Lewis

European environment ministers are expected to reopen a difficult debate later this month on deeper EU carbon emissions cuts, but a draft text ahead of the meeting stops short of any firm targets.

Previous discussion of bigger carbon cuts has been tense, with coal-reliant Poland objecting that they could damage its economy.

Germany asked for the topic to be put back on the agenda, EU sources told Reuters last week.

An agreement to set a more ambitious target could help revive the European Union's carbon market, which was meant to be the main driver of low carbon investment.

Emission permits under the EU's carbon Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) have collapsed to a series of record lows, making carbon-intensive coal far cheaper to burn than lower-carbon natural gas.

At the same time, there is little incentive to invest in renewable energy, which Germany aims to increase as it phases out nuclear power.

"Ministers will, on request of the German delegation, take stock and might possibly consider adopting council conclusions on the roadmap concerning a transition to a competitive low-carbon economy (in) 2050," reads the text of a note seen by Reuters ahead of the June 11 environment council.

The EU has drawn up a set of roadmaps to lay out the direction of policy after 2020, when a firm set of goals including a 20 percent cut in emissions is due to expire.

Draft conclusions ahead of the June meeting show that outstanding issues include the fact that one unidentified country wishes to delete reference to a low-carbon roadmap and one objects to new targets.

KYOTO GOALS

So far, the EU as a bloc is meeting its goals under the Kyoto framework for curbing climate change, although figures this week showed its greenhouse gases rose in 2010, ending a decline that began in 2004.

Environmental campaigners say the 27-member union so far has not delivered funding commitments to help poor countries cope with climate change after an initial installment referred to as "fast-track financing" comes to an end.

Ahead of the next U.N. climate change summit in Doha at the end of this year, EU environment ministers are expected to discuss over lunch "how to take climate finance forward between 2013 and 2020", the note on the June 11 council meeting said.

As part of the planned transition to a green economy, other topics include sharing best practice to shift taxation away from labor and business towards resource and energy use, as well as moving away from "environmentally or economically harmful subsidies", including for fossil fuels.

Environmental groups are concerned that Poland might win subsidies for coal plants that have yet to be built, as part of negotiating efforts to persuade it to drop its objections to increased ambitions on emissions goals. That would be a breach of EU rules, which aims to phase out coal-fired power generation.

This week, a group of non-governmental organizations wrote to EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, urging her to ensure that Poland's application for free carbon emission allowances "complies fully with the EU ETS rules".

"The Commission is analyzing the Polish application and will apply the legislation vigorously," Commission spokesman Isaac Valero-Ladron said.

(Editing by Rex Merrifield and Jane Baird)

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