EU leaders set for showdown on climate targets

2014-10-23 20:01

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Brussels - EU leaders were preparing on Thursday to debate a new set of climate targets for 2030 as pressure builds for them to set a benchmark for international climate talks next year.

The European Union has long sought to drive the battle against climate change and is keen to make a mark ahead of the 2015 negotiations in Paris on a new global climate treaty.

"It is very important that the EU shows leadership," EU President Herman Van Rompuy wrote to the leaders ahead of the two-day summit. "It is my intention that we endeavour to complete these negotiations ... on Thursday."

A deal on the EU's 2030 goals will prove challenging amid disagreements on how aggressively the bloc should reduce emissions, boost renewable and improve energy savings.

Difficult negotiations

Eastern European countries, most notably Poland, are considered the biggest hurdle. Many of them are still reliant on polluting energy sources such as coal and worry about the new targets driving up electricity prices and proving harmful for their economies.

"Difficult negotiations lie ahead," German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned last week. "All member states must make a fair contribution."

On the table are three climate targets that the bloc would agree to implement between 2020 and 2030, also to give the energy industry long-term predictability.

The European Commission has proposed requiring a 40% cut in carbon dioxide emissions, based on 1990 levels. It would also like to derive at least 27% of EU energy from renewable sources and cut energy consumption by 30 per cent.

Some countries want more ambitious targets, with Sweden, for example, calling for a 50% cut in emissions.

Support measures for poor countries

Lower goals are also under discussion. Part of a compromise could be reducing the energy savings target to 27%, according to diplomats.

Support measures for poorer countries are also likely to prove key, as part of the bid to win over the eastern European sceptics.

Heavyweight Britain remains to be convinced. It has been pushing against EU targets on renewables and efficiency, arguing that flexibility is needed.

There are additional concerns that the EU could put its competitiveness at risk by being too ambitious, if major polluters such as the United States and China then end up dragging their feet.

But the leaders are under pressure to deliver for several political reasons, including the fact that the EU is keen to decrease its energy dependence on Russia.

The leaders will also discuss the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the crisis in Ukraine.

Read more on:    eu  |  climate change

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