EU ministers to fire first salvoes on climate proposals
( dpa ) - The European Union's environment ministers are set to draw up their battle lines Monday when they hold their first talks on how to hit the bloc's ambitious climate-change targets.
The questions of how hard each of the EU's 27 member states should try to cut its emissions, and how hard EU car manufacturers should try to make their products cleaner, are set to dominate the debate, with heavyweights Britain, France and Germany among the states at odds over key details.
Over the last three months the EU's executive body, the European Commission, has made two legal proposals on combating emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), the gas most associated with global warming.
Firstly, on December 19 the commission proposed minimum targets for reducing CO2 emissions from passenger vehicles, with the heaviest, and therefore most polluting, cars expected to make the deepest cuts.
That proposal met with heated criticism in member states with strong automotive industries, especially Germany, where heavy luxury vehicles make up a disproportionate share of total production.
Then on January 23 the commission laid out plans for how member states should hit the target of reducing emissions to 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 - a target first defined by EU leaders at a summit in March 2007.
The commission's proposals included expanding the EU's flagship scheme for trading permits to emit CO2, and making companies buy permits at auction rather than receiving them free from governments.
They also set out binding targets for member states to boost the amount of energy they produced from sources such as solar power and to cut emissions from sources not covered by the permits scheme.
But those proposals, too, quickly came under fire as some member states said that their targets were unfairly high, while some industries warned that forcing them to buy emissions permits would make them unable to compete with non-EU rivals.
Monday's meeting is set to see the first full-scale debate between EU ministers on the proposals. As such, member states are expected to set out their stalls ahead of a meeting of national leaders in March.
Ministers are also set to discuss the protection of endangered species and agenda plans for that March summit.