Europe: No Additional CO2 Cuts This Decade

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Economic concerns are overshadowing concerns about climate change.

Last week, the European Union's energy ministers swiftly stepped in to finally put an end to growing calls to unilaterally increase the block's emission-cutting target to 30%, as economic concerns are overshadowing concerns about climate change.

The debate over whether to increase the current target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 20% from 1990 levels by 2020 dates back to late 2008 when EU leaders first endorsed the idea and intensified with the proximity of Copenhagen's climate change late last year.

But the failed negotiation appeared to rule out any unilateral move from Europe, which officially conditions any additional reductions to "comparable" or "commensurate" measures in other major economies.

Momentum for a unilateral 30% cut was rekindled as environmental groups with the support of the block's heavyweights—Germany, France and the UK—argued that targets should be revised as a result of the recession and plummeting emissions. Additional investment would allow Europe to retain the lead in climate change technologies, while stimulating the economy, they said.

The debate was intense and involved high-level negotiations, but it was finally put to rest when EU energy ministers who "reiterated" climate change commitments, included the block's unwillingness to increase the 20% emission cut target unilaterally as part of Europe's 2011-2020 energy strategy.

The guidelines laid out are the foundation of the long-term strategy heads of state are expected to endorse next spring, in effect ruling out any future unilateral cut for the remaining of the decade. In early May, the EU Commission, the block's executive branch, strongly endorsed more robust climate change commitments as part of an analysis on the impact of increasing the current target.

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