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Britain accepts binding EU renewables target

Britain has dropped resistance to a mandatory European Union target of drawing 20 percent of power from renewable sources by 2020 and expects EU leaders to set that goal next week, a British official said on Wednesday.

Britain was one of several countries, including prominently France, which opposed making legally binding the objective for low-polluting energy sources such as solar and wind power when EU energy ministers debated the issue on February 15.

It argued at the time that member states should be free to choose how they achieved an agreed unilateral reduction of 20 percent in emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming from 1990 levels.

But the official said Prime Minister Tony Blair had accepted after a telephone call with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso the need for a binding target to help establish EU leadership in the worldwide fight against climate change.

“Unless you can demonstrate how you intend to get to 20 percent or 30 percent carbon dioxide reductions, it doesn’t have credibility with (the media), with the markets or with industry,” the official said.

Diplomats said Britain’s shift would not be enough on its own to persuade other resisters such as France and several central European countries to make the target binding, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will chair the March 8-9 summit, was working hard to clinch agreement.

“I do expect it will be binding,” the British official said, adding that the EU energy action plan to be adopted by leaders would have to reflect the different energy mixes and routes taken by member states.

France has argued that a 20 percent renewables target could force it to diversify away from non-carbon nuclear power, which provides more than three-quarters of its electricity.

Other sceptics are concerned about the cost of renewables and scientific arguments that switching to biofuels made from crops could actually generate more CO2 than it eliminates.

reuters.co.uk

28 February 2007