Energy

EU leaders tussle over emissions target in climate change talks

3 minute read

Smoke and steam billow from Belchatow Power Station, Europe's largest coal-fired power plant, near Belchatow, Poland. Picture taken November 28, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

  • EU leaders discuss recently-agreed 2030 climate target
  • Dispute over how to steer EU climate policy overhaul
  • Target is 55% emissions cut by 2030 from 1990 level

BRUSSELS, May 25 (Reuters) - A meeting of European Union leaders on Tuesday could end without a declaration on how to meet the bloc's new goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions due to differences over its upcoming overhaul of climate policies, officials said.

Meeting in Brussels, the 27 national leaders will debate the EU's new target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, from 1990 levels, agreed last month. Their previous goal was a 40% cut.

Leaders will air their views about which sectors and countries should carry the heaviest load. They will also send a signal on what policy changes they will accept to deliver the target, before the European Commission publishes a huge package of climate policies in July. read more

Officials from four EU countries said it was possible climate change would be scrapped from the meeting conclusions, if some countries attempt to include specific requests that would limit what the Commission can propose in July.

"If some try to introduce more specific elements, it will be preferable to abandon this text rather than initiate a discussion which has no chance of succeeding in the absence of concrete proposals from the Commission," one said.

The leaders will provide "an overview" of how they want to go about eliminating overall EU emissions by 2050, German chancellor Angela Merkel said on arrival for the summit on Monday.

"This is not about decisions, but about preparations for the European Commission's decision on 14 July," she said.

Some central and eastern countries want to instruct the Commission to make specific policy changes -- for example, to increase the size of an EU fund that helps poorer states invest in clean energy.

Draft conclusions for the summit, seen by Reuters, did not include this. However, they did ask the Commission to maintain the EU's current system for setting countries' national emissions-cutting targets.

The EU sets national targets to curb emissions in sectors like transport and buildings, which are not included in the EU carbon market. They will need to be raised, in line with the EU's new climate target.

The targets are based largely on a country's gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, meaning poorer states face weaker goals than richer countries.

Officials from multiple countries said they would support maintaining the current system, which also tweaks richer countries' targets to ensure emissions cuts happen where they are most cost-effective.

Reporting by Kate Abnett and Sabine Siebold; additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by John Chalmers and Philippa Fletcher

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