France leads EU Council's Kyoto extension push to 2020

France's National Assembly voted almost unanimously Oct. 21 on the draft law implementing the country's environment package, concluding a widespread debate with all relevant stakeholders over the past year.

Doris Leblond
OGJ Correspondent

PARIS, Oct. 22 -- France's National Assembly voted almost unanimously Oct. 21 on the draft law implementing the country's environment package, concluding a widespread debate with all relevant stakeholders over the past year.

The result "should considerably bolster France's credibility and voice within the European and international climate negotiations" said Jean-Louis Borloo, minister of ecology, energy, and sustainable development.

Borloo was alluding to the back-tracking of a number of European Union member states on the energy-climate package, which France wants to see adopted at the next EU Council meeting Dec. 11-12. It will coincide with the United Nations climate conference in Poznan, Poland, Dec. 1-12 to extend the Kyoto Protocol treaty beyond 2012.

The energy-climate targets to 2020 are "the three 20s," namely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, increase the share of renewables in energy consumption to 20%, and improve energy efficiency by 20%. It is one of the priorities of France, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency until yearend, to have the package adopted in December.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, at the last 27 leaders summit meeting in Brussels Oct. 15-16, said solutions would be found for countries that have expressed concern over the cost of the package in the current unfavorable financial and economic environment.

Italy, Poland, and several new EU member states, including Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovakia, have threatened to veto the package, while a consensus is needed for its adoption. Many are coal-dependent countries that are also worried that the EU's Emission Trading Scheme would be too costly for them, as they would need to buy certificates allowing them to emit carbon dioxide as of 2013. They want the deadline extended to 2020. Their view is that the EU's policy should be "to reconcile environmental targets with the need for sustainable development."

The European Commission has already provided for some flexibility in the application of the package. But as its president Jose Manuel Barroso firmly said at the Oct. 15-16 meeting: "What the Commission is adamantly opposed to is anything that undermines the overall architecture of the package" [the three 20s].

Any major backtracking would jeopardize the EU's environmental leadership because it hopes to influence other countries worldwide to follow its suit.

More in General Interest