A draft final statement at a European Union summit on Friday set a binding target of 20 percent of renewable sources in EU energy consumption by 2020 in an ambitious strategy to fight climate change.
The compromise circulated by EU president Germany offered flexibility on how the 27 member states contribute to the common pan-European goal for renewables such as solar, wind and hydro-electric power.
The wording appeared aimed to win over states reliant on nuclear energy, led by France, or coal, such as Poland, or small countries with few energy resources, such as Cyprus and Malta, by adding references to the national energy mix.
“Differentiated national overall targets” for renewables should be set “with due regard to a fair and adequate allocation taking account of different national starting points,” it said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was hoping to clinch a deal on a long-term strategy integrating energy and climate change to pressure the United States and other industrialised and emerging nations to follow the EU lead in combating global warming.
On Thursday, the 27 leaders committed themselves to an ambitious target of reducing EU greenhouse gas emissions, blamed for heating the planet, by 20 percent by 2020 and offered to go to 30 percent if other nations follow suit.
The draft statement, seen by Reuters, also set a 10 percent minimum target for biofuels in transport to be introduced by 2020 in a cost-efficient way.
In an attempt to balance pro- and anti-nuclear states, the draft added wording on the contribution of nuclear energy “in meeting growing concerns about safety of energy supply and CO2 emissions reductions while ensuring that nuclear safety and security are paramount in the decision-making process”.
Leaders came close to a deal on renewables on Thursday but several countries sought assurances that their special circumstances and financial limits would be taken into account when sharing the burden of meeting an EU-wide target.
Merkel told a midnight news conference the strategy “will put us in a position to show the international community that Europe is playing a pioneering role”.
But she was cautious, saying that while she was hopeful of a compromise on Friday, further negotiations would be needed.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski said: “”Poland is ready to accept binding targets as long as they are the European average and specific conditions of various countries are taken into account.”
French President Jacques Chirac accepted a binding target but told fellow leaders nuclear power must also play a role in Europe’s drive to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Merkel said nuclear power was not a renewable energy form but could help to reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions.
Several EU states are fundamentally opposed to using nuclear power or, like Germany, in the process of phasing it out.
As this year’s chairman of the Group of Eight leading industrialised nations, Merkel wants the EU to set the agenda on the environment.
Renewables currently account for less than 7 percent of the EU energy mix and the bloc is falling short of its targets both for low-carbon energy and to cut carbon dioxide emissions.
The summit outcome will form the basis of the EU’s position in international talks to find a replacement to the U.N. Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
Environmentalists want the bloc to go further in its efforts to fight climate change but European business is concerned it will foot the bill by losing competitiveness to dirtier but cheaper foreign rivals.
The European Commission has proposed that big utility groups be forced to sell or separate their generation businesses and distribution grids in a process known as “ownership unbundling”, but Merkel said she did not expect such an agreement.
The draft statement said the EU agreed on the need for “effective separation of supply and production activities from network operations” but made no reference to breaking up energy giants such as Germany’s E.ON and RWE and Gaz de France and EdF.
By Ingrid Melander and Paul Taylor
9 March 2007
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