Thirteen ministers urge EU to agree green energy goals in March

Mon Mar 3, 2014 1:55pm EST

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By Barbara Lewis

BRUSSELS, March 3 (Reuters) - Thirteen ministers on Monday urged the European Union to reach agreement on the main elements of 2030 environment and energy policy this month or risk deterring investors and delaying efforts to get a global deal on climate change.

Among the rest of the 28 EU member states, the most prominent opposition has come from Poland, which says there is no hurry to reach a political deal.

"We can work with Poland to get an agreement in March," Britain's Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey told reporters. "I'm not saying it's going to be easy."

But he said the early agreement of the 13 ministers, including from France, Germany and Britain, provided a chance to make an agreement with Poland and others.

The Commission, the EU executive, in January outlined its vision of 2030 climate and energy policy to succeed the existing set of 2020 goals.

The Commission suggested a single fully binding 2030 target to cut carbon emissions by 40 percent compared with 1990 levels, plus an EU-wide goal to get at least 27 percent of energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar. In broad terms, the Green Growth Group supports the Commission view.

A full legislative proposal is not expected until next year, when a new set of Commissioners will have taken office, so it will take years to finalise a 2030 law, but an outline agreement from all leaders would be a strong signal.

Europe's economic fragility, however, has increased the difficulty of agreeing on climate policy. A draft EU document ahead of the meeting of leaders on March 20-21 placed the focus on industry and competitiveness, rather than the environment.

The Green Growth Group of 15 countries, including the 13 who issued the statement, says climate policy need not be an enemy to competitiveness.

"A delay risks undermining commercial sector confidence, deferring critical energy investments, increasing the cost of capital for these investments and undermining momentum towards a global climate deal," the group of 13 ministers said.

EU-WIDE VERSUS NATIONAL

Britain, which previously avoided any commitment to a renewable goal, said it could accept an EU-wide target provided it did not lead to any binding national targets. Critics of the EU-wide target say it is almost impossible to enforce without national targets.

The group of ministers says there is no time to lose ahead of U.N. talks seeking to get a global deal on tackling climate change in Paris next year.

It also says investors need early certainty if they are to help with the upgrading of infrastructure, for instance, which would improve grid connections in Europe, increase security of supply and theoretically lower costs.

Poland, whose economy is heavily dependent on coal, says the goals under debate would impose a greater burden on it than other countries.

Marcin Korolec, Poland's deputy environment minister, told reporters that aiming for agreement in March was "a very optimistic approach" and that the international agenda did not require EU agreement until early next year.

"I think it will be difficult for the European Council to decide on some targets without knowing crucial elements," Korolec said, referring to how targets should be distributed among different member states. (editing by Jane Baird)

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