New plan for EU climate burden sharing emerges

Presidency pushes to narrow the gap between countries under the EU "bubble"

EU environment ministers will be asked to endorse a significant convergence of member state targets to reduce greenhouse gases when they meet on 16 June, it has emerged. A paper circulated by the UK presidency proposes big reductions in emissions increases to be allowed to poorer members compared with an interim arrangement made last year, while most countries that accepted big emissions cuts last year would see small relaxations in their targets.

The paper, which has not been released publicly, will be a key point of discussion at the forthcoming Environment Council. The UK presidency has made agreement on "burden sharing" a key priority and faces severe embarrassment it fails to broker a deal.

The presidency has proposed an aggregate EU cut of 8.9% between 1990 and the period 2008-2012 in emissions of the six gases to be controlled under the Kyoto protocol, according to a report in the latest issue of Environment Watch Western Europe, published today.

This is nearly one percentage point higher than the 8% aggregate cut to which the EU committed itself at the international Kyoto climate change talks last December, and lower by a similar margin than the EU's interim burden sharing deal reached in March 1997 (ENDS Daily 3 March 1997).

Portugal would see the biggest change in its commitment, according to the journal, moving from an allowed 40% increase to one of 24%. Likewise, Greece would see its allowance for emissions growth cut from 30% to 23%. Other countries that secured significant increases in the 1997 deal (Spain, +17% and Ireland, +15%) would both see their allowances cut back.

At the other end of the spectrum, most countries that accepted big emissions cuts last year would see minor relaxations. Germany would have to achieve a 22.5% reduction in place of 25%. Denmark and Austria would both have to cut emissions by less than the 25% to which they agreed last year, and Belgium's 10% commitment would also be relaxed.

Alone amongst EU countries, the UK would see its commitment strengthened, from 10% to 12%. The remaining four states would retain the same percentage commitment as agreed in 1997, which would mean stabilisation for Finland and France, a 7% cut for Italy, and a 5% increase for Sweden.

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