EU summit set for tough climate talks

09:49, 11 December 2008
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A deal on the...

EU leaders begin two days of talks on a major climate change package tonight, seeking to forge agreement without sacrificing key goals in a bid to satisfy demands from Germany and elsewhere, according to AFP via The Australian.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has vowed to fight any EU climate deal that jeopardises German jobs.

The EU`s climate-energy package, the so-called “20-20-20” deal, seeks to decrease greenhouse gas emission by 20 percent by 2020, make 20 percent energy savings and bring renewable energy sources up to 20 percent of total energy use.

A deal on the renewables - wind, wave, solar power and so on - was sealed earlier this week.

And while no one is openly seeking to dilute the overall goals, agreed by all 27 EU nations last year, governments are increasingly unwilling to incur extra green costs for their industries with the eurozone in recession.

“I expect a very tough debate,” Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra said on the eve of the summit in Brussels.

“Everybody wishes that we will be able to reach a political agreement, but it must be a win-win solution,” added Vondra, whose country is one of those which will seek to alter facets of the scheme.

The buzzword is “carbon leakage” whereby industry moves out of highly-regulated, therefore more expensive, regions.

That way European jobs are lost and there is no environmental benefit.

Poland and its fellow eastern European nations are seeking special treatment as they are heavily reliant on high-polluting coal.

Britain is opposed to part of the plan to give extra funding from the richer to the poorer EU nations.

The Czechs are insisting upon dispensations for the power generation sector, while Italy wants a 2014 review of the renewables target.

One EU diplomat said the French EU presidency`s attempts to deal with all misgivings ahead of the summit were hampered by the fact that some member states would bring their own proposals and initiatives to the summit itself.

One of the most controversial aspects of the climate change/energy package is the emissions trading system, whereby polluters can buy and sell their polluting rights.

Under the scheme, industry will have to buy these rights from 2013 rather than receiving them for free as they do at present.

Poland was set to benefit from a new compromise plan on climate change, AFP learned late Wednesday, with an offer of free CO2 emissions rights up to 2019.

The fresh proposals suggested a new mechanism for sharing out CO2 quotas, with the eastern European countries getting a special allocation of 12 percent against the previously suggested 10 percent.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country holds the EU`s rotating presidency until the end of the year, is keen to seal the climate change deal under his tenure -- along with agreement on a 200 billion euro economic stimulus package, another major topic for the summiteers.

“Several elements remain open” on the climate package, he admitted ahead of the summit.

Those open questions include; which sectors of industry are so threatened by international competition that they should remain completely or partially exempt from the emissions permit auctioning.

What allowances should be made for the electricity producers of eastern Europe which are heavily reliant on coal

What aid should richer nations give to their poorer eastern neighbours which do not have the same technology to cut emissions.

The EU summit opens at 3:00 pm today (2am Friday AEDT) and the climate change talks are not expected to finish until late Friday, at the earliest.

The full summit menu includes the economic stimulus package, which will also be the source of tough debate.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen will also brief his fellow leaders on his plans to get the EU`s reforming Lisbon Treaty ratified late next year.

Irish voters sent the Union spinning into institutional crisis in June by rejecting the treaty in the only national referendum on the issue.

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