EU Still Stuck on Green Fuels Target
BRUSSELS -- European Union foreign ministers sought on Monday to narrow differences on how to combat climate change but resistance remained to a German bid to fix mandatory targets for the use of "green fuels."
It will be up to EU leaders meeting this week to hammer out whether the bloc commits to binding objectives for the use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power as part of its ambition to lead the world in fighting climate change.
"There was no final solution," one EU diplomat said after the talks. "As expected the summit will have to deal with it," he said of the meeting set for Brussels on Thursday and Friday.
"They (ministers) repeated the well-known positions. It's been like that for months," said another EU official, adding that only Sweden, Denmark, Britain and Italy had stated their support during the talks for establishing binding targets on renewable energy.
The EU plans to adopt a unilateral commitment to a 20 percent cut in emissions of greenhouse gases, rising to 30 percent if other major industrialised and emerging powers join in.
Germany, the current EU president, also wants the summit to set a binding target for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar to supply 20 percent of energy consumption by 2020.
France and some 10 other countries, including several in central Europe, are wary of binding targets that would impinge on their national energy strategies.
British officials have signalled that Prime Minister Tony Blair has dropped resistance to a binding target. Some EU diplomats said they expect French President Jacques Chirac to yield in exchange for a recognition that France's nuclear power programme helps cut carbon dioxide emissions.
"Many EU countries have demonstrated a significant readiness to commit to 20 percent (on renewables) as a binding goal," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily in an interview. She did not name those countries.
A possible compromise, diplomats said, could be to make the 20 percent target binding on the EU as a whole but not on individual states, with burden-sharing to be negotiated later.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said the EU should aim for something stronger than vague guidelines.
"If the requirements are drafted in such a way that they are in the form of guidelines that we should respect, that is good. But I am personally in favour of clearer requirements," he said.
Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik said binding targets would be a sign the EU was serious.
"Europe has to become greener and credibly so. So benchmarking and setting ourselves goals and ambitions explicitly is a reasonable instrument," she told reporters.
Underlining the difficulties ahead, an independent audit of British climate change policies reported by the Guardian on Monday said Britain will fall short of a target of a 30 percent cut in CO2 emissions by 2020, not reaching that level till 2050.
The ministers were also due to discuss crises in Darfur, the Middle East and Iran's nuclear programme.
They are expected to urge the United Nations to consider tightening sanctions on Sudan over Darfur and pledge funds to help create a joint African Union-U.N. peace force.
On the Middle East, they are expected to reiterate a willingness to work with a new Palestinian national unity government provided it adopts an acceptable platform. (Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom)