EU leaders to set October deadline to agree 2030 climate goals

BRUSSELS/LONDON (Reuters) — European Union leaders are preparing to set an October deadline for agreeing on the bloc’s 2030 climate and energy goals, a draft document seen by Reuters shows.

At a meeting this Thursday and Friday, according to the draft, “The European Council will take stock of progress made on these issues at its meeting in June … with a view to taking a final decision on the new policy framework as quickly as possible and no later than October 2014.”

Business and governments have been split on whether leaders should make an early agreement on plans for 2030 in the run-up to global talks on tackling climate change.

The European Commission, the EU executive, in January outlined a binding 2030 goal to cut carbon emissions by 40 percent compared with 1990 levels. The bloc has almost met its 2020 target of a 20 percent reduction.

Environment ministers from 13 member states including Germany, France and Britain have urged EU leaders to agree on a position in order to pile pressure on other powers to ready their own plans ahead of negotiations late next year on a global climate pact to take effect from 2020.

But EU diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, have for months played down the chances of an agreement before June. Poland and other east European countries with heavy reliance on carbon-intensive coal want to wait until China and the United States unveil their proposals, which all nations have agreed must be ready by April 2015.

The summit this week will call on the Commission, the EU executive, to do further analysis on how the 2030 goal will impact each member state and design policies that “result in fair-effort sharing”, according to the latest draft for the summit, dated March 19.

Scientists and environmental campaigners have urged the bloc to continue its leadership in tackling climate change to ensure that global temperature rises are kept below the two degree Celsius level that U.N.-backed scientists say is needed to prevent a huge increase in droughts, flooding and rising sea levels.

They want the European Union to agree on its 2030 goals ahead of a September meeting in New York convened by U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon, who aims to catalyze support among world leaders for the climate pact.

Divisions between politicians are mirrored by divisions in Europe’s business community.

Big power companies want certainty to help plan their huge upfront investments, and some other companies also say that jobs in clean technology manufacturing will be lost abroad without a decision this week to set stronger climate policies.

“We call upon you (leaders) to swiftly adopt a robust package during your Council negotiations this week, so as to send a clear signal to your peers across the globe and most importantly to business leaders and investors doing business in Europe,” the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group said in a letter.

The group’s members include firms ranging from Coca-Cola and Royal Dutch Shell and for the first time include several Polish businesses and research groups, including engineering consultancy Buro Happold and technology producer Carrier Polska, which is part of United Technologies Corporation .

But heavy industrial companies such as chemical producers and steelmakers are urging caution to ensure they remain competitive with rivals in regions with looser environmental rules.

“Europe must not again impose on itself unilateral CO2 reduction targets which no one else follows,” 60 CEOs of European steelmakers including ArcelorMittal and ThyssenKrupp wrote in an open letter to the Council sent last week.

Scientists at Germany’s Potsdam Institute said the European Union could take the lead in setting 2030 goals at little extra cost, because it had already set policies in place that would lead to a 30 percent cut.

“Late-comers would have the benefit of lower costs while they delay action but would face higher transient costs once their turn to decarbonize comes,” the institute said on Wednesday, referring to a study it carried out with 16 other institutes.

EU nations are among a handful of industrialized economies that have committed to binding emission reduction targets to 2020, while other major emitters have pledged only voluntary goals. The committed group accounts for less than 15 percent of global emissions.

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