European Union foreign ministers failed to agree March 5 whether to set binding targets for the use of renewable energy sources, setting up a potential clash when the bloc’s leaders meet.
Diplomats said almost half the 27 member states opposed a drive by EU president Germany to fix a mandatory goal for renewables such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power to back Europe’s ambition to lead the world in fighting climate change.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said ministers had narrowed differences on other points but “the central point of difference is on the binding nature of the target for renewables. This point remained open and will be decided at the summit on (Thursday and) Friday,” he added.
Only Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Britain, Spain, and Italy voiced strong support for a binding target of 20 percent of energy consumption from renewables by 2020, diplomats said. (HNN 2/28/07)
British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett played down the differences on renewables and stressed the significance of the overall EU energy strategy.
“It will be a huge turning point for the European Union if we get an agreement and a huge turning point for the world community,” she said.
France, which is heavily dependent on nuclear power, proposed setting a binding EU objective for “non-carbon and low-carbon energy,” of which the renewables target would be just a part. Steinmeier said there was no agreement on that idea, while Spanish European Affairs Minister Alberto Navarro said: “We think these are two different issues.”
Ministers endorsed EU plans for a unilateral commitment to a 20 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions, rising to 30 percent if other major industrialized and emerging powers join in.
A possible compromise, diplomats said, could be to make the 20 percent renewables target binding on the EU as a whole but not on individual states and negotiate burden-sharing later.