EU Summit – Leaders reach deal on fighting climate change

BRUSSELS (AFX) – EU leaders agreed to adopt binding targets on future use of renewable energy, so overcoming the main obstacle to an ambitious plan to fight global warming.

Despite divisions overnight, the 27 member-state bloc agreed to a binding target of a 20 pct share of renewable energies in overall EU energy consumption by 2020.

As expected, and in an effort to limit the rise in average global temperatures to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial era levels, EU leaders also agreed to cut the bloc’s carbon dioxide emissions by 20 pct by 2020, from 1990 levels.

This target could go up to 30 pct, depending on the outcome of talks with international partners.

In particular, developed countries are urged to ‘commit themselves to comparable emissions reductions’, with ‘advanced developing nations’ contributing ‘adequately’, according to the agreement reached at the two-day summit here.

In addition, a binding 10 pct minimum target is to be achieved by all member states for the share of biofuels in overall EU transport petrol and diesel consumption by 2020.

The renewable energy and carbon emissions targets are for the bloc as a whole, with national cuts to be agreed at a later date.

The European Commission expects to table measures for agreement on national targets in the third quarter of this year.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said she is ‘happy’ the summit concluded ‘successfully’ and claimed the agreement would usher in a new era in the fight against global warming.

‘It has been possible to, as it were, open the door to a new dimension of European cooperation for years to come in the area of energy and combating climate change,’ she said.

She added that the binding targets will ‘guarantee innovation’ and allow Europe to take on a ‘vanguard role’ in the fight against climate change.

Merkel cautioned, however, that breaking down the targets for each individual member state will be a ‘difficult task’.

Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said the binding targets reflect an ‘historic result’ for the bloc.

He said the final agreement comprises ‘the most ambitious package ever agreed by any institution or any group of countries’ to combat climate change.

But he stressed that the steps taken at the summit mark just the beginning of what will be a long and complicated process.

‘What we are proposing is overall targets for Europe, but afterwards we have to take into consideration the different national situations,’ he said.

The renewable issue had been the main stumbling block during the summit.

Countries like Poland and the Czech Republic, which are heavily dependent on carbon energy sources like coal, had complained that the proposed binding renewable target was overly ambitious and prohibitively expensive.

To bring those states on board, the agreement stressed that ‘differentiated national overall targets’ should be reached, leading to a ‘fair and adequate allocation’ that takes into account ‘different national starting points and potentials’.

Thus, those countries whose exploitation of renewable energies is already well advanced would take up the slack left by the others to ensure the overall bloc-wide target is met.

However, that will entail tough negotiations as to how much of the burden each member state will have to bear.

After lobbying by France, nuclear power was recognised by leaders as one way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

However, it also highlighted safety concerns, stating that ‘nuclear safety and security’ should be ‘paramount in the decision-making process’.

EU leaders saw the two-day talks as key to making progress on realising a common energy policy for the bloc, facing challenges on security of supply and competitiveness, in addition to climate change.

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