EU Commission to push for early climate action

Bjerregaard supported on 2005 target, loses bid to exceed Kyoto 2008-2012 requirement

EU environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard yesterday won support from her colleagues to call on EU ministers to fix an interim target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2005 as well as the 2008-2012 target agreed in Kyoto last December. But the Commission is not to push for the EU to exceed cuts of 8% by 2008-2012.

Ms Bjerregaard is due to make a formal statement to environment ministers at their quarterly meeting on Monday. The basis of her statement will be a report approved yesterday by all commissioners, which sets out the Commission's political strategy in the months ahead. The Commission is to draw up a formal EU strategy by June.

Setting an interim target of around 4%, Ms Bjerregaard is expected to tell ministers, would motivate EU countries to agree coordinated policies and measures and would send a clear signal to the rest of the world that the EU feels tougher targets are required to halt climate change than those agreed at Kyoto.

Securing support only for an interim target falls short of Ms Bjerregaard's personal ambitions. ENDS Daily understands that the commissioner abandoned hopes of securing more than an 8% cut by 2008-2012 after it became clear that this would be opposed by some commissioners.

Climate change is expected to be top of environment ministers' agenda next Monday, when ministers will take stock of progress in deciding how EU member states should contribute to meeting the 8% aggregate target agreed in Kyoto. The UK presidency wants to achieve a firm burden-sharing deal by June.

But hopes of being able to stick in principle with a burden-sharing agreement reached by member states last March (ENDS Daily 3 March 1997) are fading because several member states have argued for substantial relaxations of their targets.

The Commission wants to steer clear of this highly political debate. On Ms Bjerregaard's recommendation, it is proposing to leave the formulation of a new burden-sharing agreement up to the Council of Ministers, with a more active role for the Commission envisaged only if agreement is still not reached by June.

EU countries are also due to discuss their positions for the next global climate change conference in November. A key issue will be to decide the rules for setting up a global emissions trading system to enable countries to achieve emissions cuts at least cost.

The Commission feels the EU should argue for a quantitative cap on the contribution emissions trading and other "flexible mechanisms" can make to each country's emission target, particularly if it thinks that the rules agreed for such mechanisms are weak. It says the EU should set an example by accepting a cap on the use of such mechanisms for itself.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 9111.

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