Fears over EU climate ambition as countries seek to water down proposals

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The Nochten opencast lignite mine and Boxberg coal-fired power station, operated by Lausitz Energie Bergbau AG (LEAG), are pictured in Nochten, Germany, March 22, 2022. REUTERS/Matthias Rietschel

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BRUSSELS, June 24 (Reuters) – European Union countries are seeking to change a range of climate change policies in negotiations over the laws, raising fears that moves to weaken measures could see the EU miss his green targets.

The EU is negotiating a sweeping overhaul of its carbon market and energy, transport and forestry laws, bringing them up to speed to meet the 2030 target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by 55% over 1990 levels.

Agreeing on climate action is an often daunting task for the 27 EU member countries, whose reliance on fossil fuels and appetite for rapid emissions cuts vary. But divisions over policies have intensified as governments negotiate them amid soaring inflation and energy costs.

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Draft proposals for countries’ positions on the laws, seen by Reuters and which member states will try to agree on next week, show steps to weaken some of them compared to the original proposals from the European Commission, which drafts EU laws and proposed the package last summer.

A draft proposal on carbon market reforms would delay the launch of a new building and transport market by a year, while in a proposal on energy savings, a target to reduce energy consumption primary energy would no longer be legally binding.

Countries are also considering watering down to 40% a target for industry to use 50% renewable hydrogen by 2030, and a binding obligation for fuel suppliers to reach a 2.6% share of Renewable fuels for transport by 2030 could become voluntary, diplomats have said.

“In all the different files, ambition is watered down. There is not a single file where ambition has increased or stayed the same,” said a diplomat.

Some diplomats have also raised concerns that a proposal to end new fossil fuel car sales in 2035 could be derailed, after Germany‘s finance minister said this week that Berlin would not back it not. Read more

The draft agreements could still change before ministers from EU countries adopt common positions on them next week, before negotiating final laws with the European Parliament.

Several nations want changes to the proposals, as commitments to protect the planet clash with the demands of other national interests and industries. Spain had sought to rein in the energy savings target, while Hungary, Bulgaria and Poland were among those seeking weaker renewable energy targets for transport, officials said. diplomats.

Even if the weaker elements were agreed, the package of new laws would be a big step forward in emissions reduction ambition compared to Europe’s current climate policies, requiring significant investments from governments and industries to switch to cleaner cars, energy and industrial processes.

What is not yet clear is whether the changes, if approved, would cause the EU to miss its climate targets.

EU countries and Parliament usually change parts of Commission proposals during their negotiations. But climate policies are designed to add up to the EU’s 55% emissions reduction target – so weakening ambition in one law may require boosting ambition in another, to ensure that the overall objective is always achieved.

The European Parliament has already confirmed its negotiating positions on some files, increasing ambition in some areas and reducing it in others.

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Reporting by Kate Abnett, editing by Marine Strauss and Susan Fenton

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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