, December 12, 2008 (ENS) - European leaders today agreed to hold fast to their plan to battle climate change through growth in renewable energy sources and 20 percent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and on ways to share the costs.
The plan includes concessions to heavy industry and to countries in Eastern Europe concerned that the cost of curbing greenhouse gas emissions would also curb their economic growth.
"This is really historic," French President Nicolas Sarkozy, holder of the EU's rotating presidency, said at the conclusion of the two-day Council meeting in Brussels. "There's not one continent that has rules as strict as we're adopting."
French President Nicholas Sarkozy announces the outcome of the European Council meeting. (Photo courtesy French Presidency)
Sarkozy said the decisive breakthrough will allow the European Union to honor its ambitious commitments and retain its leading role in seeking a global agreement at the World Climate Conference that will be held in Copenhagen next year.
EU leaders delayed plans to end after 2012 the free allocation of emissions allowances on which carbon dioxide quotas are based. Instead, the European Council agreed on a compromise setting the auctioning rate to be reached in 2013 at 20 percent.
By 2020 the auctioning rate is set at 70 percent, with a view to reaching 100 percent in 2027, the Council agreed. The agreement should be able to be finalized with the European Parliament by the end of the year.
The leaders of the 27 EU member states said today in a declaration, "The European Council underlines the vital importance of achieving the strategic objective of limiting the global average temperature increase to not more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. It stresses the need for decisive and immediate action, in order for the challenges of climate change to be tackled effectively. International collective action will be critical in driving an effective, efficient and equitable response in the scale required to face climate change challenges."
"In this context, agreement on the energy-climate package is a major contribution to safeguard the future of our planet, strengthening the European leading role in the fight against climate change," the leaders declared.
Half of the revenues generated from the auctioning of allowances in the EU greenhouse gas emissions trading system will be used to reduce emissions, mitigate and adapt to climate change, and for measures to avoid deforestation, to develop renewable energies, energy efficiency and other technologies to move towards a safe and sustainable low-carbon economy, the leaders agreed.
"In the context of an international agreement on climate change in Copenhagen in 2009, and for those who wish so, part of this amount will be used to enable and finance actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change in developing countries that will have ratified this agreement, in particular in least developed countries," they said.
"The EU climate and energy package will contribute to EU efforts to provide finance for actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change, in particular through the carbon market in the context of a wider international agreement," they stated.
In Poznan, Poland, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Yvo de Boer welcomed the news that the European Union member states reached an agreement on climate change.
"The European Union's climate deal sends a clear message to the negotiations in Poznan and onwards to Copenhagen that difficult roadblocks can be overcome and resolved," he said.
"This is a sign of developed countries' resolve and courage that the world has been waiting for in Poznan," de Boer said.
"It shows the world that ambitious emission reduction goals by 2020 are in line with moving economic recovery in a green direction. This will contribute to propelling the world towards a strong, ambitious and ratifiable outcome in Copenhagen in 2009," he said.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.
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