EU's Hedegaard urges quick move to deeper CO2 cuts

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union’s nominee for climate commissioner said on Friday the EU should quickly commit to deepening its emissions cuts, while maintaining leverage on other countries to follow suit.

European Climate Action Commissioner-designate Connie Hedegaard of Denmark waits to address the European Parliament Environment, Public Health and Food Safety committee in Brussels January 15, 2010. REUTERS/Thierry Roge

The 27-nation bloc currently plans to cut carbon emissions to a fifth below 1990 levels over the next decade. But it has promised other countries it will deepen those cuts to 30 percent if they follow suit.

“I would like us to go to the 30 percent as soon as possible,” Denmark’s Connie Hedegaard told a European Parliament hearing to evaluate her for the job of EU climate chief.

But Hedegaard, widely seen as likely to land the post, stuck to the current EU negotiating strategy of keeping the offer conditional to maintain leverage.

Hedegaard, a member of the Danish Conservative Party, said the EU would have to commit to green industries to avoid losing its head-start on rivals overseas.

“This is not an anti-growth or an anti-jobs agenda -- It’s the opposite,” she said. “If we drag our feet, Europe will lose. Lose growth, jobs, welfare.

“China is moving - and moving fast. The U.S. now understands the message and moves rapidly on energy efficiency and technology. Like Japan, Brazil, South Korea. In other words: Europe’s strongholds are challenged.”

Forcing European manufacturers to produce more fuel-efficient cars and trucks will also help secure jobs and reduce the need for costly oil imports, she said.

Hedegaard signaled a cautious stance on highly-polluting

coal power.

“We should not rush into this,” she said when asked about imposing performance standards on new coal power stations. “If we have performance standards, how would we be guaranteed some countries would not just prolong the living-time of the old ones?”

Hedegaard said she would push to extend the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) overseas, building it up to an OECD-wide carbon market.

“I will work very hard to bring about an international carbon market across as many countries as possible of the OECD by 2015,” she said. “My objective is to link the EU ETS with the U.S., if possible by 2015,” she said.

Reporting by Pete Harrison; Editing by Keiron Henderson