EU ministers plan to curb CO2 from planes, ships

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - European environment ministers agreed on a proposal on Wednesday to curb global emissions from planes and ships by 10 percent and 20 percent over the next decade in the fight against climate change.

A plane flies past smoke rising from a chemical factory fire in Crewe, central England, June 4, 2007. REUTERS/Darren Staples

Ministers also agreed on a long-term goal of cutting EU emissions by 80-95 percent, one day after an east-west rift over how to finance emissions curbs knocked the EU’s leadership ambitions off course.

The proposal will be presented to other countries at talks in Copenhagen in December aimed at forging a replacement to the Kyoto Protocol, the United Nations’ main tool against climate change.

“We have from the environment council a complete negotiating mandate for Copenhagen, except for the finance,” German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said.

Shipping and aviation are not covered by Kyoto, which runs out in 2012, but the 27-country European Union wants the two sectors dealt with in any replacement deal hammered out in Copenhagen.

The two sectors together generate about 5 percent of global CO2, but that figure is rising fast.

Charging the two sectors for permits to emit carbon could also generate funds to help developing nations tackle climate change.


EU finance ministers had failed a day earlier to agree on financial aid for developing nations that would be intended to win their support for a global climate deal.

Developing countries say they cannot cut carbon dioxide emissions and adapt to changing temperatures without help from industrial nations, which grew rich by fuelling their industries with hydrocarbons and polluting the atmosphere.

The issue will now be tackled by EU heads of state at a meeting next week.

“It is now essential that EU heads of state come to an agreement on financial help for developing countries to cope with climate change,” said Bill Hemmings of environment group T&E. “Without that, the poorest nations will never agree to cutting aviation and shipping emissions.”

Germany’s Gabriel said: “The EU will not dare to have no opinion on the financing issue. The heads of state and government will find a solution.”

But the rift between countries in the east and west of the EU that emerged on Tuesday grew deeper on Wednesday. The environment ministers clashed over what to do with surplus gas emissions rights -- so-called Assigned Amount Units (AAUs).

Eastern European countries have significant numbers of spare AAUs that they no longer needed after their economies collapsed in the wake of communism. Now they can sell them to generate billions of euros, and want to keep doing so after 2013.

Other countries such as Germany and Sweden want to kill off the excess permits, saying they undermine the system.

“They could affect the environmental integrity of the EU,” said Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren. “We have to discuss that issue further.”

On Tuesday, nine of Europe’s poorer countries, led by Poland, had demanded their economic situation be taken into account before the EU agrees up to 15 billion euros ($22.4 billion) of financial aid for the developing world.

Wednesday’s decisions add fresh momentum to negotiations toward a global climate deal, especially given the new commitment shown by China and the United States under President Barack Obama, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said.

“I remember when discussions with the Americans were like discussions with a wall,” he added.

Reporting by Pete Harrison, editing by Dale Hudson