(AFP) – Feb 28, 2008
BRUSSELS (AFP) — EU nations raised on Thursday a host of objections to new proposals for fighting climate change, setting the stage for tough negotiations over the package.
In the first debate of the plans since they were proposed in January, EU members lined up to call for more flexibility and greater attention for industrial competitiveness while also pushing their national wish-lists.
Last month, the European Commission set targets for EU member states to slash greenhouse gases, calling on them to boost renewable energy use while also unveiling plans to make industry pay for the right to pollute.
The proposed strategy is supposed to put the European Union on track to meeting a target of cutting the bloc's overall greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 percent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels.
The commission wants member states to reach an agreement on the package by the end of the year, so that it can go before the European Parliament by June 2009.
In the debate, many member states argued that their individual circumstances should be better taken into account in setting targets for them to cut their emissions.
For instance, Cyprus called for its island geography, cut off from outside energy grids, to be taken into account while Romania said that too strict restrictions could encourage its industry to flee to neighbouring countries outside the EU.
Coal-rich Poland called for the package to give a bigger role for investments in cleaner versions of fossil fuel while Finland argued for peat to be taken into account in the calculation of its biofuel target.
Sweden, which has the highest renewable energy target under the commission's plans, gave a mostly warm reaction to the package but stressed that the price of actions should not outweigh the benefits.
"It is important for all of us that we achieve a cost-effective way of meeting the overall objective," Swedish Energy Minister Maud Olofsson told EU colleagues.
There was also broad support for making sure that the use of biofuels in the future does not cause more harm than good, amid a recent stream of studies suggesting that such plant-derived energy has unforeseen environmental and social drawbacks.
"It's clear that the road to the second generation of biofuels is not as clear as we thought," said Dutch Economy Minister Maria Van Der Hoeven.
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