Chris Huhne gets European support to toughen EU climate targets

13.3.2011 (Guardian)
Six other governments agree to join push for target of 30% cuts in greenhouse
gas emissions by 2020
by Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent
Chris Huhne has won the support of six other European governments to push for
a toughening of the EU’s climate targets, to be discussed in Brussels on Monday
. The energy and climate secretary is spearheading a growing movement in favour
of a target of 30% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, instead of the current

He will join his counterparts from Germany, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Portugal
and Greece to argue for the higher target at a four-hour meeting of all 27 member

In a letter to the Guardian, Huhne and his fellow ministers say: “At a time when
the price of oil is soaring, putting in place an ambitious plan for
Europe‘s low-carbon future has wider benefits than tackling climate change. It will increase the continent’s resilience against oil price spikes and reduce
its dependence on imported energy. And it will help Europe compete with emerging
economies in the fast-growing markets for green goods and services.”

The push for a higher emissions target was boosted last week with publication of the EU’s 2050 low-carbon roadmap, by the climate change commissioner Connie Hedegaard. The roadmap showed the
EU was on track to reduce emissions by 25% by 2020, if current policies were fulfilled.

The roadmap said a cut of 25% would offer the most cost-effective way for Europe to meet its 2050 target of
cutting emissions by at least 80%. As the EU has already cut emissions by 17%
compared with 1990 levels, setting a 30% target would “stimulate the right investment
in low-carbon infrastructure and technology”, according to the environment and
energy ministers.

They said toughening the target would “maximise growth, jobs and prosperity”
and ensure that Europe made it “to the front of the low-carbon race, rather than
being left behind”.


High profile opponents of the higher target within the European Commission include
Günther Oettinger, the energy commissioner, who said
it would lead to “faster de-industrialisation”.

He stressed that the 2050 roadmap did not contain a new target, but an analysis
of various potential paths to lower emissions. He said: “The 20% target is still
in place and that is clearly stated in the roadmap.”

To change the target, European leaders would have to agree at a meeting later
this year. The lobbying process for and against the target has intensified in
recent weeks and is likely to be stepped up further in the coming months.

Several large business groups have also been lobbying heavily for the current
weaker target to be retained,
arguing that moving to a higher target without similar commitments from countries
outside Europe would impose unfair burdens on EU businesses.

The letter seeks to reassure such companies: “We know that some industries are
worried about how they will adapt, but solutions are available. In the best traditions
of European co-operation, we can work together to overcome these challenges.”

Another group of more than 30 large companies is campaigning for the higher target,
arguing that it will stimulate economic growth.

Ruth Davis, chief policy adviser for Greenpeace, said: “That seven European economies now back the move to 30% just shows the
increasing momentum coming from a growing list of major businesses such as Google,
Unilever and Vodafone that want Europe to raise its carbon target to boost our
economic recovery and create jobs. The emphasis on green technology in China’s
five-year plan only undermines the need for Europe to up its game if it is to
kick start clean energy investment and stay competitive.”

The letter is signed by Chris Huhne, secretary of state for energy and climate
change for the UK; Andreas Carlgren, environment minister of Sweden; Norbert Röttgen,
federal minister for the environment, nature conservation and nuclear safety,
Germany; Lykke Friis, Denmark’s minister of climate and energy; Humberto D Rosa,
secretary of state for the environment, of Portugal; Rosa Aguilar Rivero, minister
for environment, rural and marine affairs in the Spanish government; and Tina
Birbili, Greece’s minister of environment, energy and climate change.