'Consensus emerging' on climate deal at EU summit

10:34, 12 December 2008
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Diplomatic and EU...

European Union leaders looked poised Thursday to seal agreement on a package to fight global warming after concessions to nations concerned over the cost to industry during recession, according to AFP.

Italy`s Silvio Berlusconi, one of the fiercest opponents of the proposals that had been on the table, withdrew his veto threat after several hours of negotiations as sources at an EU summit said a consensus was now emerging.

"We are heading for a compromise," the Italian prime minister told reporters on the margins of an EU summit in Brussels. "Italy is on the way to getting all it wants."

Diplomatic and EU sources had earlier said that French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the summit`s host, had made a series of compromises designed to buy off opposition by countries including Italy, Poland and Hungary.

Although Britain and others had voiced concerns that too many concessions had been made, hopes grew that an agreement would be reached before the end of the two-day summit on Friday.

"A consensus is starting to emerge and an agreement is quite probable tomorrow," one EU official said on the condition of the anonymity.

The EU`s so-called 20-20-20 plan sets three targets for 2020: a 20 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions, a 20 percent cut in energy consumed and 20 percent use of renewable energy.

But several nations, led by Germany, Italy and Poland, have opposed the plans to achieve those targets, fearing the effect on their industries and jobs in a time of recession.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, had said earlier in the week that she would not endorse any deal that jeopardised German investment or jobs with the continent`s biggest economy now in recession.

But Merkel, who was the initial package`s chief architect before Germany became affected by the global economic slowdown, merely said on arrival that she expected "difficult negotiations" in the hours ahead.

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

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

The energy sectors of heavily coal-dependent nations would also receive some free emissions allowances until 2019 under the plan.

A Polish government source said that Warsaw was now happy with the package on offer.

Poland "has achieved all its objectives," the source said.

"Europe must not provide the spectacle of its own division," said Sarkozy before going into the closed-door meetings.

Environmental group Greenpeace swiftly slammed the new concessions.

"We risk a lock-in in an expensive and polluting fossil-fuel economy," said Greenpeace Europe director Joris den Blanken.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, attending UN climate talks in Poland, said the outcome of the two-day summit in Brussels holds "great consequences for the whole world".

"We look for leadership from the European Union," he said.

The EU hopes to come to international talks on global warming in Copenhagen next December with a strong, unified line on climate change as a model for the rest of the world.

Europe`s overall objective is to keep global warming to two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels.

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