The Changing Climate: Merkel Wants Radical Plan on CO2 Cuts at EU Summit

Germany's Angela Merkel wants Europe to commit to the most specific climate protection plan in its history at a summit this week. But her call for binding CO2 cuts faces resistance. Can the EU lead the way?

Merkel wants the EU to agree binding targets on CO2 emissions.
DDP

Merkel wants the EU to agree binding targets on CO2 emissions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose government holds the rotating six-month presidency of the 27-nation European Union, wants to put the bloc at the forefront of global efforts to halt climate change and said she would seek a radical plan of action at a two-day summit of EU leaders in Brussels starting Thursday.

Merkel said in a newspaper interview that Europe must take a leading role so that it can demand that the United States, China and India take steps toward reducing their carbon emissions as well.

"We will pass an action plan for climate protection and energy policy that is more concrete than ever before in the history of the European Union," Merkel told Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, referring to the two-day summit on energy policy, climate change and economic reform starting on Thursday.

"For the first time individual targets will be set to enable countries to meet their overall obligations to cut greenhouse gases by 2020," Merkel said.

"There is a common basic understanding in the European Union that we have to lead the way in the world if we want to demand that other countries like the United States, China and India live up to their obligations."

Merkel said she wants the summit to agree on specific targets for energy efficiency, the increased use of bio-fuels and the proportion of energy derived fron renewable energy sources. Many EU states were prepared to make binding commitments, Merkel said, but she added that she could not anticipate the outcome of the meeting.

Summit Draft Doesn't Call For Binding Cuts

Business daily Handelsblatt reported that Germany's draft for the final summit communiqué calls for industrial nations to slash their CO2 emissions by between 60 and 80 percent by 2050. If the summit approves this target, Germany -- in its capacity as current president of the Group of Eight leading industrial nations -- will submit it for approval at the world economic summit it is hosting in June, Handelsblatt reported.

The draft, agreed in preparatory talks among EU officials ahead of the summit, also calls for EU countries to reduce their emissions by 30 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels. A German proposal that all EU member countries should make binding commitments to cut their emissions by 20 percent didn't make it into the draft, however, Handelsblatt reported.

Many EU states have opposed binding targets and exact national quotas, so that the EU is now discussing a "burden sharing" on CO2 reductions instead, the economic daily wrote. Merkel has already stressed that Germany will reduce its emissions by more than 20 percent by 2020. But she has also said that Germany won't be able to continue to account for 75 percent of all EU cuts.

It's a highly controversial topic and EU foreign ministers are due to hold talks this week to avert an open dispute at the summit.

Meanwhile Bild newspaper, Germany's biggest-selling daily newspaper, ran a front-page editorial on Monday under the headline: "Are we Germans supposed to save the world on our own?" The newspaper wrote: "We Germans are for environmental protection! We're also prepared to make sacrifices for the environment. But sometimes one gets the impression: We're supposed to save the earth ourselves!"

"What are the biggest polluters, the USA, Russia and China, doing to save the planet?"

The US and China are the world's largest and second largest CO2 polluters respectively and both have said their CO2 emissions will continue to grow in coming years.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, in his annual report to the National People's Congress, China's parliament, said on Monday China would do more to save energy and cut pollution in 2007 while trying to maintain strong economic growth.

But Wen made no mention of any drive to combat global warming, even though China is on course to overtake the United States as the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases by 2009. And while stressing a long-term commitment to cut energy use per unit of output, his speech omitted a numerical goal for 2007. China fell well short in 2006 of its target of a 4 percent cut.

cro/reuters/dpa/AP/ddp

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