PARIS, Dec. 14 -- After 2 days of marathon negotiations, the 27-nation European Union reached a unanimous agreement on the climate-energy package at its Dec. 11-12 summit. The agreement was reached on the last day of the Poznan international conference to update the Kyoto Protocol.
The agreement means member states must fulfill the "three 20s" target: By 2020 each country must bring down its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% from its 1990 level, bring the share of renewables in the energy mix to 20% from the current 8%, and achieve energy savings of 20%.
But because the targets were set in early 2008, the more recent financial crises have given several countries second thoughts that the free allowances of the Carbon Dioxide Emissions Trading Scheme, which are to become payable from 2013, would strain them too much.
Balking and threatening to veto the package were Germany, Italy, and the eastern EU countries with their coal-generated electric power.
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel had said she would not agree to anything that would jeopardize Germany's jobs or industrysteel, chemicals, aluminium, and coal-fired power.
Hungary considered insufficient the solidarity mechanism that would help the poorer EU nations adapt to a greener world. Exemptions were issued to Poland and other eastern nations that will have nothing to pay for their coal-powered electricity until 2019. While a number of industries were also left off the hook, it was possible to reach an agreement.
The passage was a priority for France's president Nicolas Sarkozy, who will be handing over the reins of the EU to the Czech Republic as his 6-month stint concludes.
Although Sarkozy at his press conference described the agreement as "historic" and insisted that "Europe can only be listened to if it is exemplary," important parts of the plan were shed along the way, much to the dismay of Greenpeace and other environmentalists, such as the World Wildlife Fund and Friends of the Earth.
"This was a credibility test for Europe at a time when we see others coming closer to our position," said president of the EU Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, referring to US president-elect Barack Obama's environmental plans.
The agreement is expected to bolster Europe's position at the Copenhagen climate conference scheduled at yearend 2009.