EU agrees "strong" climate talks position

Environment ministers firm up negotiating stance on big issues ahead of final Kyoto talks

EU environment ministers meeting in Luxembourg yesterday approved a position for climate change negotiators to take into global talks on implementing the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Ministers agreed to effectively exclude nuclear power from eligibility in a scheme for technology transfer to developing countries until after the protocol's ratification, which could well take several years. They also said the use of forests as "sinks" to absorb carbon dioxide emissions and offset fossil fuel burning should not be used before 2012, which marks the end of the protocol's first "commitment period".

The discussions were dominated by the role of nuclear and forest sinks in the "clean development mechanism" (CDM), under which industrial states will be entitled to claim emission credits for investing in emissions reduction projects in developing countries.

Ministers agreed that until the protocol's first review meeting after its ratification, the CDM should be restricted to a positive list of "safe, environmentally sound...projects" based on renewable energy, energy efficiency improvements and demand management in the energy and transport sectors. A Commission official said the list was not exclusive but would in practice prohibit nuclear power until the review.

A push to explicitly exclude nuclear from the CDM, led by Ireland and supported by at least ten other member states, was frustrated by resistance from France, the UK, and, it is understood, Finland.

On forest and other land-use related sinks, ministers noted "serious concerns" expressed recently in an intergovernmental panel on climate change report. This detailed a catalogue of technical problems in assessing projects' potential to offset carbon emissions. Ministers said these meant CDM forestry projects "should not be included" during the first commitment period.

Greenpeace climate campaigner Michel Raquet said today the position still contained too many loopholes. The list of CDM-approved projects would include coal power plants, and the fine wording on sinks would open a "Pandora's box" of options for developed countries to bypass their own emission reduction obligations, he said.

Follow Up:
EU Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111, the climate conclusions are contained in the minutes of the meeting; European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111.

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