EU agrees goal for climate deal by April 2009

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU President Slovenia and the three countries that will succeed it in the EU chair agreed with European Parliament leaders on Thursday to aim to enact ambitious laws on energy and climate change by April 2009.

Slovenian Environment Minister Janez Podobnik told a joint news conference with his French, Czech and Swedish counterparts the aim was to pass legislation on the measures proposed by the European Commission before the June 2009 European elections.

The Commission outlined ambitious proposals on Wednesday to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels, increase the use of renewable energy in power production to 20 percent and use 10 percent of biofuels for transport by 2020.

“We would like to arrive at first concrete results as soon as possible ... leading to final adoption of the package by spring 2009 at the latest,” Pobodnik said.

He said the main political groups and committees in the European Union legislature had pledged to work fast to achieve an agreement on first reading with the 27 EU member states, rather than the slower procedure of a second reading.

French Secretary of State for Ecology Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet told reporters she hoped they might even reach a political accord late this year under France’s six-month EU presidency, in time for a climate conference in Poznan, Poland.

The ministers did not discuss objections to the package from energy-intensive industries, which want a better guarantee of protection from competitors in less environmentally regulated countries, and from some member states to national CO2 targets.

Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren said a quick deal based on the Commission package would enable Europe to take the lead in negotiations on an international agreement to fight global warming due to conclude in Copenhagen in December 2009.

“It’s also a way to show that Europe should really and will really be prepared for Copenhagen in 2009,” he said.

Reporting by Paul Taylor, editing by Dale Hudson