EU Council raps US, Japan on climate

Japanese CO2 targets "totally inadequate" say EU environment ministers

At their quarterly meeting held yesterday in Luxembourg, European Union environment ministers slammed other industrialised countries for failing to produce concrete negotiating proposals ahead of December's crucial conference on climate change in Kyoto, Japan.

A European Commission spokesman told ENDS Daily that ministers had used "pretty strong language" to criticise the USA, Canada and Australia for not putting forward targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions after 2000. Japan was roundly condemned for having proposed a "totally inadequate" target of "less than 5%" by 2007 (ENDS Daily 6 October).

During closed discussions on the EU's negotiating strategy for Kyoto, ministers vowed to "step up the diplomatic offensive" against the US, Japan, Canada and Australia to sign up to the EU's target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2010. A Council spokesman told ENDS Daily that there was "total consensus" to stick to the EU's agreed target. One minister suggested discussing a fall-back target for Kyoto, but was "sharply rebuked" by colleagues.

Ministers also fleshed out the "burden sharing" concept agreed in March, under which some EU member states will have to make sharp cuts in greenhouse gas emissions while others will be allowed an increase. This is being opposed by other industrialised countries.

After hours of haggling, ministers agreed to propose at Kyoto legally binding rules under which the EU and its member states would be jointly and individually responsible for meeting EU-wide and national commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, they agreed only a vague proposal for how other countries wishing to enter into similar "joint agreements" should be bound. Some delegations suggested that the EU should propose the same approach of joint and individual responsibility for all countries. But the final text agreed by ministers leaves open to individual countries the level of responsibility they should take to meet individual or joint emissions reductions commitments. A Council source described the compromise as "wishy-washy".

Ministers also took the opportunity yesterday to welcome the Commission's recent policy paper on climate change (ENDS Daily 1 October). In its conclusions, the Council says the Commission's paper "demonstrates that the emission reduction objectives for 2010 and 2005 are both technically feasible and economically manageable". Ministers called on other industrialised countries to "come forward with comparable proposals for emission reduction" at the last high-level preparatory meeting before Kyoto, which will be held next week.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111; Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111.

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