EU states jumpy ahead of climate package

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EU governments have stepped up their efforts to lobby the European commission in the hope of avoiding onerous national targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and boost renewable energy use. The commission will table legislative proposals next Wednesday for meeting the EU's 2020 targets (EED 07/01/08).

Most concern in EU capitals centres on national burden-sharing targets designed to raise the bloc's renewable energy use to 20 per cent by the end of next decade. French environment minister Jean-Louis Borloo met the EU's environment and energy commissioners at the weekend to discuss concerns raised in a letter from president Nicolas Sarkozy to commission head Jose Manuel Barroso.

Mr Sarkozy pointed out that France's per capita greenhouse gas emissions were 25 per cent below the EU average, due in part to the widespread use of low-carbon nuclear power. As a result, he said France 'could not accept' any renewables target over 20 per cent. In 2005 its renewables consumption stood at 10 per cent and according to various reports on Wednesday, its proposed renewable target is likely to be around 22 or 23 per cent (EED 23/11/07).

Sweden and Austria are meanwhile arguing that their previous achievements in boosting renewable energy use should be reflected in lower targets for 2020. Officials in Sweden, where the share of green energy is already 40 per cent, are warning that a target of 55 per cent, as reportedly set to be suggested by the commission, will be tough to meet.

In his letter Mr Sarkozy said France's per capita emissions should also be taken into account when calculating its overall greenhouse gas emission reduction target for 2020, which will be set out in separate legislation. In the long term, he said, the EU should aim for a convergence of per capita emissions. This would mean that countries with currently higher per capita emissions would be asked to do more.

Notwithstanding the French president's intervention, commission sources say member state officials appear generally less concerned by the imminent proposals for national greenhouse emission reduction targets. Most disquiet is being shown by those countries whose GDP has risen sharply in recent years – including Ireland, Spain and Portugal – since under the commission plans this means they will receive much stricter targets compared with their current obligations under the Kyoto protocol.

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