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Europe's polluters warn of high price for EU green plan

Germany had lobbied to exclude the steel and chemicals industries from emissions charges, warning that they could be forced to relocate to low-cost countries outside Europe.
by Staff Writers
Berlin (AFP) Jan 23, 2008
Europe's big polluters accepted an EU plan to drastically cut emissions of the gases that cause global warming while expressing concern on the cost and impact on jobs.

Pressure groups said the targets did not go far enough and would be a threat to the world's poor. Industry groups said meanwhile they went too far.

Under the European Commission proposals, Britain, France and Germany will all have to make huge investment in renewable energy and cut emissions of the gases blamed for climate change.

France will have to increase the share of renewable energy it produces from 10.3 percent to 23 percent by 2020, Germany from 5.8 to 18 percent and Britain from 1.3 to 15 percent.

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel hailed the plan as "courageous" and said Germany's concerns had been taken into account, but Economy Minister Michael Glos said he feared job losses in Europe's biggest economy.

"It is very balanced, economically viable, very courageous and an ambitious plan for the protection of the climate," Gabriel said.

Under an action plan ordered by EU leaders last year to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2020, the EU wants to make industry start paying for the right to emit greenhouse gases from 2013. Sectors such as steel and the airline industry however will pay from a later date.

Gabriel said Germany had lobbied to exclude the steel and chemicals industries from emissions charges, warning that they could be forced to relocate to low-cost countries outside Europe.

But he was still worried about the impact on industries already grappling with high energy prices. "We don't want the European Commission to dictate the rules to us," Glos said.

"We really don't need this plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it will destroy jobs in industries which consume a lot of energy.

"The commission has a tendency to say: 'You wanted ambitious targets, now it's up to you to bear most of the burden.' But we will be keeping a close eye on this."

Britain's Environment Minister Hilary Benn said the proposals sent a clear signal that the EU was taking tough measures on climate change.

"This plan shows exactly what we are aiming for globally -- a comprehensive and effective agreement to tackle climate change, with the carbon market at its heart," Benn said.

"The UK is determined to play its part in full, but we should ensure that there is collective effort from all member states to play their part in meeting the EU target."

French Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said that his country "will maintain its position as a leader in the fight against climate change, and will in 2020 become the most sober carbon emitting economy in the European Union."

Not everyone was happy however.

Dutch Environment Minister Jacqueline Cramer said: "the targets could have been higher and I shall continue to push in this direction."

And Rajendra Pachauri, the Nobel Peace Prize winning head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said the EU package was "not up to expectations."

Pachauri, speaking at the Davos economic forum, said he was sure that the targets would be "revisited over a period of time."

Environmental and poverty groups also criticised the European Commission package as too modest and even posing a threat to the world's poor.

Greenpeace said the package was "a good but faltering start" with the "fundamental drawback" of not being ambitious enough. Friends of the Earth argued that a 20 percent cut "will not be sufficient to avert dangerous climate change".

Industry groups across Europe also condemned the plan, if for different reasons.

Steelmakers complained that the cost of emissions certificates would put them at a severe disadvantage compared with their competitors in Asia and the United States.

The main Finnish business confederation, EK, said "The European Commission's proposals will significantly increase energy costs for companies and households, but they will not lead to a reduction in emissions in the most efficient way.

"At the same time, the proposals will diminish the business opportunities for European energy-intensive companies in international markets."


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China, India among worst environmental performers: study
Davos, Switzerland (AFP) Jan 23, 2008
European countries and some Latin American nations topped an environmental scorecard released Wednesday in Davos, way ahead of the United States and emerging economies like China and India.

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