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Updated: December 14, 2009 16:25 IST

EU leaders are likely to hold a mini-summit on Thursday

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Activists at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen on Monday, who are asking rich countries to support poor countries to reduce their emissions. Photo: AP
AP Activists at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen on Monday, who are asking rich countries to support poor countries to reduce their emissions. Photo: AP

EU has already pledged to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions to 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, and to deepen that cut to 30 per cent if other countries sign up to a binding deal at United Nations negotiations in Copenhagen

The European Union has promised to lead the world on climate change: the problem will be to deliver.

The bloc has already pledged to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions to 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, and to deepen that cut to 30 per cent if other countries sign up to a binding deal at United Nations negotiations in Copenhagen this week.

But as EU leaders get set to travel to Copenhagen for crucial final talks on Thursday, diplomats say that they are still at odds over how, when and whether to move to a 30-per cent cut -- seriously weakening the bloc’s bargaining power in the mean time.

“This is part of the real end-game. This will be something where the EU is going to decide in the very end of this process,” Sweden’s Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren said Saturday.

Sweden currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, and has spearheaded the bloc’s diplomatic push into the Copenhagen talks.

Emission cut

According to the UN’s expert panel on climate change, IPCC, rich countries will have to cut their emissions to 25-40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 as part of world efforts to fight global warming.

In 2007, EU leaders agreed to make a 20 per cent cut, and offered to deepen that to 30 per cent if other major economies such as the United States and China made “comparable efforts.” The 30 per cent offer is “a lever to put pressure on other parties,” Carlgren said.

At a summit in Brussels on Thursday, EU leaders stressed that they would indeed go for the deeper cuts “provided that other developed countries commit themselves to comparable emission reductions and that developing countries contribute adequately.” But that declaration masked an internal row over the questions of whether and when to make the move.

Some EU members, especially in the former-Communist states of Central and Eastern Europe, argue that the bloc should not move to a 30 per cent cut until its executive, the European Commission, has carried out a full assessment of any Copenhagen deal.

“We have to be very clear that this (decision) cannot be made purely on political grounds, but must be based partly on the basis of the impact assessment that the commission must present to the (EU) in March,” Poland’s EU Minister Mikolaj Dowgielewicz said.

But a number of the bloc’s richest members, including France and Britain, argue that the 30 per cent offer should serve as the EU’s trump in the final hours of the Copenhagen talks.

“It is existing EU policy to shift to a 30 per cent cut in the context of an ambitious deal ... There will not be time for an impact assessment,” Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller said.

Mini-summit

Diplomats say that EU leaders are likely to hold a mini-summit on Thursday in Copenhagen to thrash out the question in the light of the offers made by other countries.

That meeting could be bruising: EU states are reeling under the impact of the world economic crisis, making any proposal to push for costly emissions cuts politically explosive.

“Of course, the richest countries are more intent on it because they can afford it ... We will be able to make that leap, but only after 2020,” said Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Friday.

And even if they do agree, the biggest fight will be still to come, because member states will then have to decide which of them should make the deepest emissions cuts as part of the overall deal.

That question proved the toughest in the EU when the bloc was debating how to implement its 20 per cent cut.

So even if the EU does manage to agree on its 30 per cent offer in Copenhagen, watch out: there is likely to be a lot more fighting before it can make its promise a reality.


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