ECONOMY

EC may propose a 20 percent emissions cut by 2020 for EU

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission will propose the European Union pledge to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 20 percent by 2020, compared with 1990 levels, an official said yesterday. The EU would challenge industrial nations around the world to agree a collective cut of 30 percent by 2020 in the emissions blamed for global warming, offering to deepen its own reductions if others matched them, said the official who is involved in drafting a common energy policy to be unveiled tomorrow. The EU has sought to play a leading role in the fight against climate change although several member states have failed so far to meet existing commitments under the UN Kyoto Protocol that limits emissions of so-called greenhouse gases. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was set to press US President George W. Bush, a major opponent of Kyoto, to do more on global warming at a White House meeting yesterday. «The economic case for taking action to manage climate change is beyond dispute,» Barroso said on Friday. «We… have much to gain from teaming up, despite our differences.» European industry is concerned its competitors in the United States and other big economies are gaining an unfair advantage because their governments have refused to sign up to binding commitments to reduce emissions. One thrust of the proposed Energy Policy for Europe is to reduce the proportion of electricity generated from gas, coal and nuclear power and increase the share of renewable energy. The Commission is considering a target of generating 20 percent of EU power from renewable sources by 2020. France fears that would pose big problems for its electricity sector, which is dominated by nuclear power, an EU official said. More competition Senior EU officials held talks yesterday on the wide-ranging strategy with last-minute discussion centered on measures to expose Europe’s biggest power companies to more competition. A draft of the energy plan obtained last week by Reuters showed the Commission intended to propose options including «ownership unbundling,» which would require power-generating companies to sell off their distribution assets. France and Germany are opposed to the breakup of their energy giants and the draft offered a second option which would allow utilities to retain ownership of their grids while giving up responsibility for management. In Brussels, an EU Commission spokesman said there was still a debate going on as to how strongly the Commission would favor any particular option on unbundling: «There will be options, the question is to what extent a preference will be expressed.» Political sources said Barroso, who would need the support of Paris and Berlin to win a second term as Commission chief, was unlikely to cross the Franco-German axis. The report will point to the advantages of nuclear power as a way for the European Union to cut emissions and soften the impact of volatile energy prices.