EU climate proposal spurs UN talks

Call for significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions balances US, Japanese positions

The European Union's new target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions has "breathed life" into international talks on measures to be taken by industrialised countries to combat climate change, say observers.

A special group under the UN climate change convention is in session in Bonn throughout this week, trying to negotiate proposals for legally binding commitments by industrialised countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions after 2000.

Known as the AGBM, the group aims to develop a legal instrument for adoption by the next plenary meeting of parties to the convention, which will be held in December in Kyoto, Japan. Proposals for emissions targets must be submitted by 1 June if they are to be formally discussed at Kyoto.

The EU Council of Ministers agreed a collective target to reduce emissions of a "basket" of three greenhouse gases by 15% by 2010 only on Monday afternoon (ENDS Daily 3 March). EU negotiators immediately travelled to Bonn with the new negotiating position, which is the first formal proposal by a major economic power for industrialised countries to cut emissions significantly.

Until the EU's intervention, the talks had been dominated by the much more cautious positions of other industrialised countries, such as the USA and Japan. The USA is against any targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions before 2010. Its negotiators have already described the EU proposal as "overambitious".

Industry groups are generally opposed to significant cuts in greenhouse gases by 2010. In Bonn this morning, Klaus Kohlhase of British Petroleum presented a statement by the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (UNICE) urging governments not to set targets before 2010 (ENDS Daily 21 February).

But the European Business Council for a Sustainable Energy Future (E5), which represents companies involved in energy efficiency, cogeneration and renewables, is calling on governments to negotiate "near term" targets. Today, E5 expressed "disappointment" that the EU did not include a target for 2005 in its position for the climate talks.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace has released a report concluding that most governments are "puppets of industry" because they "are backing the oil, coal, car company agenda to protect fossil fuels rather than the climate." "Thanks to the EU initiative we see some movement towards legally binding emissions reductions", said a Greenpeace spokeswoman. "But it is still too slow and too weak to prevent dangerous climate change."

Follow Up:
UN Climate Change Secretariat, e-mail: ccinfo@unfccc.de; UNICE: e-mail: main@unice.be; Greenpeace; E5, tel: +49 228 604 920. References: "Governments: Puppets of Industry?" from Greenpeace.

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