BRUSSELS An influential committee of European Union lawmakers on Thursday proposed to ease carbon caps in the 27-nation bloc by allowing more use of payments to developing countries, through carbon offsetting.
Carbon offsets allow countries, companies and individuals to pay others to cut greenhouse gases on their behalf.
The industry committee of MEPs proposed to increase by one third the amount of offsets that members of the 27-nation bloc can use towards their carbon caps, as industry and some governments seek to ease the cost burden of EU climate policy.
Financial turmoil this week has put the costs of fighting climate change under the spotlight.
The EU Parliament will vote in coming weeks on proposals to slash EU greenhouse gases by at least a fifth by 2020 -- measures far more ambitious than rival developed nations including Canada, the United States and Japan.
The proposals would apply to greenhouse gases not covered by the bloc's emissions trading scheme (ETS), which accounts for about a half of the European carbon emissions.
The European Commission proposed in January to allow countries to buy offsets from developing countries, using a tool allowed under the U.N.-led Kyoto Protocol, up to 3 percent of their 2005 emissions.
That was equivalent to a third of the reduction effort required by the 2020 goal, according to a document seen by Reuters.
The MEP amendments change this to 4 percent, the document said, implying countries could offset a much greater part of the effort to meet their 2020 emissions cap.
The same committee last week proposed to allow industry to meet 35 percent of their ETS carbon caps using offsetting.
The EU Parliament will vote next month on a final position before entering negotiations with European leaders and the Commission to decide the final laws.