U.K. official: Britain accepts binding EU renewables target

The United Kingdom has dropped resistance to a mandatory European Union target to obtain 20 percent of electricity from renewable resources by 2020, a British official says. The official added EU leaders are expected to affirm that goal in March.

The U.K. was one of several countries, prominently including France, that opposed making the renewables target legally binding when EU energy ministers debated the issue February 15. It argued at the time that member states should be free to choose how they achieved an agreed unilateral reduction of 20 percent in emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming from 1990 levels.

But, the official said, after a telephone call with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Prime Minister Tony Blair accepted the need for a binding target to help establish EU leadership in the worldwide fight against climate change.

“Unless you can demonstrate how you intend to get to 20 percent or 30 percent carbon dioxide reductions, it doesn’t have credibility with (the media), with the markets, or with industry,” the official said February 28.

Diplomats said Britain’s shift would not be enough on its own to persuade other resisters such as France and several central European countries to make the target binding, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will chair a March 8-9 summit, was working hard to clinch agreement.

“I do expect it will be binding,” the British official said, adding that the EU energy action plan to be adopted by leaders would have to reflect the different energy mixes and routes taken by member states.

France has argued that a 20 percent renewables target could force it to diversify away from non-carbon nuclear power, which provides more than three-quarters of its electricity. Other skeptics are concerned about the cost of renewables and scientific arguments that switching to biofuels made from crops could actually generate more carbon dioxide than it eliminates.

EU ministers backed ambitious targets February 20 to cut greenhouse gas emissions and started the sensitive process of determining which countries should carry the heaviest burden to combat climate change. (HNN 2/21/07)


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