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EU may set national targets in climate accord

Connie Hedegaard 2

Several member states are pushing to set national emission reduction targets for 2020 in the Copenhagen accord instead of the EU's 20% target, incoming climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard told the European Parliament on Friday.

The accord gives industrialised nations until the end of January to register their formal emission reduction pledges for 2020. The proposal for national targets will be discussed by member states representatives in Brussels next week.

If backed by the EU, the proposal could significantly change Europe's approach to tackling climate change. Internationally, this approach has been to present a united front with a single target for the entire EU. The 20% target was adopted in 2008.

Ms Hedegaard urged Europe to "pull together" and set its target in the Copenhagen accord. The national reduction targets could amount to an EU target that is either higher or lower than 20% because of the great disparity in ambition at national level.

"In the last hours [of Copenhagen], China, India, Russia, the US and Japan each spoke with one voice while Europe spoke with many different voices," she said. "Sometimes we're almost unable to negotiate because we spend so much time talking to each other."

The incoming commissioner also urged member states not to reopen discussions on the EU's offer to increase its target to 30% if other industrialised nations make "comparable" emissions reduction commitments, hinting at internal disagreements.

Ms Hedegaard told MEPs the EU should have offered cash to poor countries before the summit. But regardless of what Europe could have done some countries "changed strategy on the way" and decided they did not want an agreement, the Dane added.

Her biggest challenge as climate commissioner will be to implement the EU's climate and energy package, she told MEPs. Ms Hedegaard confirmed the commission will propose a climate and transport package, and said curbing lorries' CO2 emissions will be a first priority.

Proposals to curb CO2 from shipping could follow, and there will be an implementation report on an EU regulation intended to reduce car emissions, she said. The Dane also wants to push for an international carbon market across the OECD by 2015.

Ms Hedegaard recognised the threat of carbon leakage, but warned against giving industry too easy a ride: "We cannot have too industry-friendly benchmarks and in the end prevent them from renewing themselves," she told the parliament.

The Dane sees much to gain from greening agriculture and increasing R&D funds especially for clean technology demonstration projects. Her role will, to a large extent, be to convince her colleagues in the commission to integrate climate issues into other policy areas.

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