EU leaders to endorse deeper greenhouse gas cuts

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders will call on the EU Commission to draw up a road map for deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions at a summit this week, going beyond a unilateral target agreed in the fight against climate change.

A draft final statement prepared by the EU’s Slovenian presidency for the summit on Thursday and Friday urges the bloc to prepare to go beyond the 20 percent unilateral cut in emissions it has agreed to reach by 2020 from the 1990 level.

“Stepping up to the more ambitious 30 percent reduction target as part of a global and comprehensive agreement needs to be built in explicitly, and in a balanced, transparent and equitable way,” the draft obtained by Reuters said.

The European Commission put forward detailed proposals in January to implement the climate change and renewable energy goals adopted last year, notably by making industry buy emission permits at auction under the EU’s emissions trading system.

However, it did not offer detailed plans on how the EU would achieve a deeper cut of 30 percent it has pledged to make if other major industrial and emerging countries join in.

The latest version of the summit conclusions, to be adopted on Friday, reinforced support for the Commission’s package as “an excellent starting point and basis for agreement.”

But it also added a new line of caution on the EU’s target of using at least 10 percent of biofuels, produced from crops, in transport by 2020, in the light of widespread criticism from scientists, economists and non-government organizations.

“In meeting the ambitious target for the use of biofuels it is essential to develop and fulfill effective sustainability criteria, which could in the future also be considered for the use of other forms of biomass for energy,” the draft said.

The text, which may be changed by EU leaders before adoption, stopped short of calling into question the 10 percent target.

Diplomats said no member state had so far suggested dropping the goal, although the British government has announced a comprehensive review of biofuels policy.

The Commission says it has proposed the strictest conditions ever set for the production and marketing of biofuels, insisting they must show a big net saving in carbon dioxide emissions and not harm rainforests and biodiversity.

Critics say the criteria do not include vital factors such as large scale water extraction, soil erosion, the impact on rising food prices of using arable land to grow crops for fuel and social impacts on workers and families.

Reporting by Paul Taylor; Editing by Jon Boyle