UPDATE 1-Europe set to revive 30 percent carbon cut debate

Thu Nov 10, 2011 1:10pm EST

Related Topics

* EU has already achieved almost 20 percent

* Poland has led opposition to higher target

* Even Denmark says 30 percent politically very tough (Adds comment from Poland, paragraphs 13-14)

By Barbara Lewis

BRUSSELS, Nov 10 (Reuters) - European politicians plan next week to revive debate on raising the target to cut the EU's carbon emissions as the bloc readies to take a leading role in climate change talks in Durban later this month.

Earlier this year, Poland, holder of the European Union's rotating presidency, blocked an attempt to move up from the existing target of a 20 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2020 to a 25 percent goal.

Campaigners and some politicians say the minimum should be 30 percent. It will be part of the discussion in Strasbourg next Tuesday and Wednesday, when members of the European Parliament are expected to debate and vote on a resolution ahead of Durban.

"Already we have a 17.6 percent reduction in 2012," Jo Leinen, chairman of the European Parliament's environment committee told a news conference on Thursday.

"The 20 percent really does not allow us to put any pressure on the rest of the world, because they know that we have already achieved 17.6 percent, so for the remaining nine years, 20 percent is not really an objective at all."

Also this week, Rebecca Harms, president of the Green group in the European Parliament, said a 30 percent cut should be a minimum goal.

"The lowest limit should be 30 percent. It would be useful if we could get political debate organised around that target," she said on Wednesday.

That debate is likely to be spurred by the motion for a resolution on the Durban climate change conference.

"It is in the EU's own interest to aim for a climate protection target of over 20 percent, since this would have the simultaneous effect of creating green jobs, growth and security," the proposal says.

The wording of "over 20 percent" paves the way to broach 30 percent, Leinen said.

CARBON MARKET SUPPORT

Supporters of renewable industry say a higher target could help to revive the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme, where the price of allowances has plunged below 10 euros.

Eastern European economies have voiced concern about the impact of higher carbon prices on their economies, which tend to depend heavily on fossil fuel, and about the cost of installing emission-free technology.

"We should also bear in mind that the climate targets are not and should not be the sole pillar of our energy policy," Poland's Deputy Economy Minister Marcin Korolec said at a policy briefing on EU energy policy.

"There are also objectives related to the security of supply and competitiveness."

The EU accounts for only around 11 percent of carbon emissions, which globally hit a record last year, driven mainly by booming coal-reliant emerging economies.

It has set itself at the forefront of efforts to get a new global, binding deal on climate change once the first commitment phase of the Kyoto Protocol runs out at the end of next year.

In October, the 27-member bloc adopted a set of conclusions saying it would sign up for a second commitment period but on the condition that the bigger emitters provided firm evidence that they would join in, too.

An EU diplomat noted the conclusions adopted in October contained an offer to move to a 30 percent cut that would be conditional on developing countries pledging comparable reductions.

The EU was not entirely united at the October environment meeting. It struggled to agree wording on allowances to produce greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol known as Assigned Amount Units (AAUs).

Poland has a surplus of these, which in theory it could sell to countries in deficit.

EU sources said Poland would be keen to carry over as many as possible into a second phase of the Kyoto Protocol.

That contrasts with Denmark, which takes over as EU president next year and believes carrying over any allowances at all would jeopardise "environmental integrity".

It has made clear its high level of ambition for a green economy, but mindful of the collapse of climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009 has also strived to be realistic about what it can achieve as EU president.

Earlier this week, Denmark's Climate and Energy Minister Martin Lidegaard said 30 percent would be politically very difficult.

"I have not given up," Lidegaard told Reuters on the sidelines of a panel discussion. "But I'm looking at the political climate and thinking it's going to be hard to achieve 30 percent." ($1 = 0.736 Euros)

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