EU ministers summoned to solve climate impasse

Presidency calls special session after diplomats fail to settle Kyoto mechanisms ceiling dispute

The EU's German presidency has summoned national environment ministers to Brussels for a special session designed to finally settle the Union's common stance on key principles for implementing the Kyoto climate change protocol. Germany decided to call an extraordinary Council of Ministers - to be held in Brussels on 18 May - after it became clear yesterday that high-level diplomats could not reach an agreement on the politically charged issue.

Ministers will be asked to agree on a limit to be set on any industrialised country's use of the so-called Kyoto mechanisms - such as emissions trading - in complying with greenhouse gas limitation commitments. The EU then wants to use this united front to persuade other industrialised countries that the majority of their emissions reductions should come from domestic efforts. A preliminary round of international negotiations between the parties will be held in Germany next month, and the presidency is aiming to secure an EU agreement before then.

Ministers have already failed once to agree on the issue (ENDS Daily 12 March). Some put the blame on the Netherlands delegation, which argued that a draft formulation for working out a quantified cap for each country's use of the mechanisms was too limiting. Drafted by Germany, the formula aims to allow a country to use the mechanisms to achieve, on average, no more than 50% of its target.

According to a Dutch official, the Netherlands' hands were tied by a political agreement reached by the parties in the governing coalition more than a year ago. As part of an inter-party deal made on forming the government, the parties agreed to call for the Kyoto mechanisms to be allowed to account for at least 50% of a country's target. The Dutch cabinet is meeting today to review this position, however, which might herald a softening in the Netherlands' negotiating position.

Sweden is also calling for more flexibility and has proposed an amendment which would allow a country to increase its use of the Kyoto mechanisms if it can prove it has taken effective domestic action to reduce emissions since 1990. The current draft only allows countries to claim credit for action taken after 1993.

Apart from the ceiling on the Kyoto mechanisms, ministers will also have to decide whether to include in their conclusions a statement supporting broader EU-wide energy taxes as further tool for combating global warming. Greece has so far refused to accept the inclusion of any such reference. ENDS Daily understands that Germany is now to propose a modified text which no longer describes a decision by energy ministers on the so-called "Monti" energy tax proposal as "a matter of urgency".

Follow Up:
EU Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111.

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