EU: CLIMATE AND ENERGY
1.1. Europe sets benchmark for tackling climate change
10 March 2007 , The Guardian
Merkel steers through 20% cut in emissions. Rules to replace filament light bulbs in two years.
Europe became the world leader in tackling climate change yesterday when 27 governments agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, and commit the EU to generating a fifth of its energy from renewable sources, within 13 years.
Greenpeace praised it as the biggest decision taken to fight global warming since the Kyoto protocol 10 years ago. European leaders said it was a historic pact and Germany ‘s chancellor, Angela Merkel, was praised for steering it through despite opposition from France and eastern Europe. Ms Merkel is due to host a summit in June of leading industrial countries at which she will seek to persuade the US , China , India , and others to follow Europe ‘s example.
The two-day EU summit, which ended in Brussels yesterday, boosted the outgoing French president, Jacques Chirac, and Tony Blair by recognising nuclear power as one way of reducing emissions.
It also introduced the possibility that millions of homes will have to change from filament light bulbs to more energy-efficient light bulbs by moving to ban traditional bulbs by 2009. The European commission is starting work immediately on a summit demand to produce proposals to trigger a wholesale switch to modern low-energy fluorescent light bulbs.
Mr Blair said the measures chimed with proposals outlined in a climate change bill to be tabled in parliament next week and in the energy white paper being drafted. "These are a set of groundbreaking, bold, ambitious targets," he said.
"It gives Europe a clear leadership position on this crucial issue facing the world." Ms Merkel, chairing her first EU summit, said she was "very satisfied" with the outcome, but warned that the world had to act "to avoid what could well be a human calamity".
She said Brussels would come up with rules within two years on more energy-efficient street lighting and domestic light bulbs. "It’s a sensible and practical step where people can make a difference," she said.
In an unusual verdict on a meeting of European governments, Greenpeace said: "EU leaders deserve top marks for pushing climate change to the top of the agenda. Other nations should now sign up and follow their lead."
The European commission is charged with drawing up detailed plans on how to implement the package agreed yesterday. That could take months or years of horse-trading as individual countries among the 27 EU members haggle over the "burden-sharing" that needs to be agreed to make the plan a reality. The summit breakthrough, following disputes on nuclear energy, renewable sources of power, and whether the targets should be binding or voluntary, means greenhouse gas emissions have to be cut by 20% across the EU by 2020, although Europe will go further to 30% if an agreement can be struck with the US and other key countries. All 27 member countries have to achieve a 10% minimum target in the use of biofuels for transport fuels overall by 2020.
The pact stipulates that the provision of 20% of European energy consumption from renewable sources such as wind and solar energy is compulsory. But within that overall target there can be great variations on how much individual member countries contribute.
Poland and the Czech Republic complained they were being penalised unfairly since they could not afford the investment in renewable sources. France ‘s priority was to water down the renewables pledge to accommodate the fact that most of its energy is supplied by carbon-free nuclear power.
Mr Chirac, at his final EU summit, cheered the "exemplary" agreement as "one of the great moments in the history of Europe ", likening it to the creation of the euro. Margaret Beckett, the foreign secretary, said: "We have got ambitious but achievable targets on emission reductions, on renewable energy, efficiency, biofuels, and a deployment action plan on carbon capture and storage. It is a big achievement."
1.2. EU leaders take timid steps to fight climate change
9 March 2007 , Friends of the Earth Europe
Friends of the Earth Europe has welcomed a tentative commitment by EU leaders to fighting climate change at the EU Spring Council today, but laments that the adopted steps are still too timid. Heads of States gave a modest boost to the uptake of renewable energies, but agreed that the EU should aim low on cutting greenhouse gases; and failed again to agree any concrete commitment towards reducing Europe ’s appalling waste of energy.
Today, right outside the EU Spring Council meeting, hundreds of people from fifteen countries across Europe formed a 12m-high “Giant EU Energy Flag” calling for sustainable energy. High resolution photos at: http://www.foeeurope.org.