The meeting was one of the last chances to agree targets before the next Environment Council in early March. The Dutch presidency and some member states (ENDS Daily 18 February) are concerned that negotiations under the UN climate change convention to agree international emission reduction targets will fail unless the EU agrees a solid position very soon.
At issue yesterday was a Dutch proposal circulated to member states in late January (ENDS Daily 12 February). It proposes cutting EU emissions of a basket of six greenhouse gases by 10% by 2005 and 15% by 2010, both from 1990 levels. For the first time, it also proposes how much each EU member state should cut national emissions as a contribution to the overall target.
The proposed national targets vary widely between countries, taking into account specific national conditions. At one end of the spectrum, Luxembourg would have to cut emissions by 40%, Germany by 30%, Denmark and Austria by 25% and the UK by 20%. At the other end, some countries would be allowed to increase their emissions: Greece and Sweden by 5%, Spain by 15% and Portugal by 25%.
At yesterday's meeting, most countries said the Dutch proposal to cut overall EU emissions by 15% by 2010 was too ambitious, including Finland, Ireland, Italy and the UK. One official described the proposal as "unrealistic and probably unachievable."
A majority also opposed the national emissions reduction targets for their countries. According to officials, Germany wanted its target softened from 30% to 25% and Luxembourg wanted a 30% target instead of 40%. Greece wanted to be allowed to increase emissions by 40% instead of 30%.
A third sticking point was how to measure reduction targets. Most countries supported the Dutch proposal to define targets in terms of simple percentage decreases or increases. But France wants to link emissions to population or GNP, on which basis it performs better than most other countries. France maintained its stance yesterday, leading officials from some other countries to accuse it of being "difficult" and of holding up the negotiating process.
EU Council of Ministers
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