From: Associated Press
Published October 18, 2005 12:00 AM

EU Says It Will Not Weaken Drive for Action on Climate Change

LUXEMBOURG — Britain insisted Monday that the European Union must work with a wide range of countries to combat climate change, but said a flexible approach to win partners would not weaken the bloc's determination to tackle the problem.


EU environment ministers were meeting in Luxembourg to discuss efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the 25-nation bloc, which hopes to take a lead in U.N. talks next month in Montreal, Canada, on cutting pollution beyond the 2012 target set by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.


"Colleagues were keen to leave a certain amount of flexibility, and not to be too prescriptive," said Margaret Beckett, Britain's secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, said after chairing the meeting of EU environment ministers.


"It is not a sign that the European Union is in some way diminishing our strong pursuit of strong action to tackle climate change," she told a news conference. "We have to engage with other players and we cannot simply dictate."


Kyoto calls on the world's top 35 industrialized countries to cut carbon dioxide and other gas emissions by 5.2 percent below their 1990 levels by 2012.


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German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin said the EU is determined to lead the fight against climate change beyond that. "We need binding and ambitious climate protection targets after 2012," he said.


In June, EU leaders endorsed plans to bring emissions of greenhouse gases to 15 percent to 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The leaders, however, shelved a plan to make further cuts of between 60 percent and 80 percent by 2050.


Greenpeace gave a mixed reaction to the EU meeting. The environment campaign group welcomed the EU's commitment to taking on climate change, but demanded more ambition at the Montreal talks.


"The text on the post-2012 process is vague, and ignores the urgency of getting it under way with a clear end date for the completion of negotiations," said Greenpeace activist Mahi Sideridou.


Beckett said the aim in Montreal would be to start discussions on a post-2012 plan with as many countries as possible.


The EU ministers "want as many global partners as possible engaged in the dialogue," she said.


"We are talking about something that is a global problem and can only be solved by global action."


Beckett was confident the EU would be able to agree next month on a hotly debated proposal to strengthen controls on hazardous chemicals and to force firms to replace toxic substances with safer alternatives.


"There is no reason that I can possibly see why there should not be an agreement," she said.


The bill has pitted industry leaders against environmentalists in a battle over jobs versus health and environmental concerns.


Industry representatives have said the original bill would be too costly and harm their competitiveness, putting thousands of jobs at risk, hampering trade and stifling innovation.


The EU's Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said a compromise proposal would strike a balance "supporting competitiveness and protecting our precious environment."


Source: Associated Press


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