Some politicians boast the EU now has unrivalled credibility in environmental policy. Others say the bloc has betrayed its ambitions. World talks on climate change are scheduled one year from now. At least the EU can claim a clear negotiating position. It is telling other major polluters, the US first, ‘you can do it too’.
The main greenhouse gas reduction targets are, by 2020, to cut the EU’s emissions by a fifth, compared to 1990 levels, draw 20 percent of energy from renewable sources and improve efficiency by 20 percent. Industries which use heaps of energy pleaded for mercy, saying care-free rivals abroad would outperform them. Therefore, under the plan approved by the leaders, European industries exposed to international competition will receive free emissions permits if they face a five percent increase in costs. That is not much of an emission-cutting incentive, the critics say. Brussels answers, ‘It is just for starters, the limits will tighten up gradually, not to worry.’ But one of the European Parliament’s most vocal green campaigners, Claude Turmes, said something is wrong: “Ninety-six percent of industrial manufacturers in Europe won’t have to pay for their pollution! Four percent will apply the polluter pays principle! It’s just not logical!” The measures need the European Parliament’s approval to become law. Some of its members will push to reject them as too weak. Certain environmentalists are describing them as an embarrassment.