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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Climate Change

EU urged to lead world on climate change

By Paul Taylor

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore urged the EU to lead the fight against global warming ahead of a summit that is due to pledge to slash greenhouse gases but leave key details for later.

Merkel, who will chair a 27-nation European Union energy summit opening on Thursday, appealed to fellow leaders to be pioneers in combating climate change by setting ambitious targets for reducing emissions blamed for heating the planet.
She won encouragement from Gore, co-author of an Oscar-winning documentary on the ravages of global warming, who said a European lead was vital.

EU leaders are expected to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent in 2020 from 1990 levels and by 30 percent if other industrialized and emerging nations join in.
The EU executive wants a mandatory goal of 20 percent of EU energy consumption from solar, wind and hydro-electric power by 2020 but France and seven central European states are resisting.

TURNING POINT

British Environment Secretary David Miliband told reporters in London the main areas of likely dispute at the summit would be the renewables target, the national distribution of emissions cuts and efforts to break up the production and distribution activities of giant energy companies.
Veteran EU diplomats said the integrated, long-term strategy on energy and climate protection the summit will endorse would have been unthinkable just two years ago.

However, environmental campaigners note that the EU is falling short of the more modest emissions reductions it pledged in the 1997 U.N. Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
Another potential source of discord is nuclear energy, which is so controversial among EU countries that the Commission chose not to make any proposal on the issue in its energy package.

France, which generates most of its electricity from atomic plants, wants the EU to set an overall target for "non-carbon and low-carbon energy" to make the point that nuclear power is clean and helps reduce CO2 emissions.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia said they would use the summit to try to revive debate on the merits of nuclear energy.

But countries such as Germany, Austria, Ireland and Italy, which have either eschewed or voted to phase out nuclear power, oppose any EU endorsement of an industry they see as posing unsolved problems of safety, waste disposal and storage.

Merkel said she planned to use Germany's presidency of the Group of Eight major industrialized powers to promote discussion of a future agreement to tackle global warming extending the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012.
"Of course, a post-Kyoto agreement will not come this year. Early negotiations are helpful but we will need one or two years at least," she said.

The European Union produces about 14 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions while the United States, the world's largest polluter, produces some 25 percent - Reuters.