From: Reuters
Published January 14, 2008 02:57 PM

EU to allow poorest members to raise CO2 emissions

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission will propose allowing the poorest new central European member states to increase greenhouse gas emissions by up to 20 percent by 2020 over 2005 levels under a major energy and climate change plan to be unveiled next week, EU sources said on Monday.

The sources said the 15 old member states would bear the brunt of cuts required to meet the 27-nation European Union's goal of an overall reduction of 20 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, with national targets set according to GDP per capita.

A draft document from the EU executive says the effort -- the Commission has excised the term "burden" -- should be shared "based on the principle of solidarity among member states."

Under the proposals, which could still be changed before the January 23 announcement, the richest old member states will have to cut emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main gas blamed for global warming, by up to 20 percent from 2005 levels.

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The sources said Romania and Bulgaria, the poorest newcomers who joined in January 2007, would be given the most leeway to increase their CO2 output since they had the greatest need to catch up in economic development.

Luxembourg and Ireland were among the countries that would be expected to make the deepest cuts.

An EU official said 2005 was set as the reference year because it was the first and only year for which the EU had full data on actual emissions by installations covered by the EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS).

Half of the overall cut would come from sectors covered by the trading scheme, including power generation, refineries and heavy industries, while the other half would have to be achieved by a mixture of increased renewable energy use and reduced emissions from buildings and transport.

Under the complex package of proposals on combating climate change, increasing renewable energy usage, reforming the ETS and promoting new green technologies, the sources said the biggest fight was over the obligation to use more renewable sources in power generation.

Renewables include solar, wind, wave and hydro-electric power as well as biomass.

The Commission has proposed that half of required 11.5 percent increase in renewables usage be shared out across the board, and the other half varied according to GDP per capita to be fair to poorer newcomers.

However, old member states such as Sweden, which already gets 40 percent of its power from renewable sources, argue this is unfair to them, since they have already made a huge effort.

At the other end of the scale, Britain gets only 1.3 percent of its power from renewables.

(reporting by Paul Taylor, editing by Marcin Grajewski)

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