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EU summit to focus on industry rather than climate-draft

Source: Reuters - Fri, 28 Feb 2014 17:36 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* EU member states not expected to agree climate goals before June

* EU ministers to hold outline debate next week in Brussels

* Renewable industry say green goals important for jobs

By Barbara Lewis

BRUSSELS, Feb 28 (Reuters) - A European Union summit in March billed as a step in the bloc's efforts to combat climate change will focus on strengthening Europe's industrial base, a draft document seen by Reuters shows.

The draft is likely to increase worries among the environmental lobby, which fears its argument that green jobs are the best way to shore up Europe's fragile economy is being ignored.

The summit "will seek ways to enhance the European industrial base as a driver for economic growth and jobs," the document says, and adds that concerns about EU industrial competitiveness should be woven into debate on all policy, including climate.

"The regulatory framework both at European and national levels must be made more conducive towards investment and innovation and the reshoring of manufacturing jobs," the document adds, referring to a drive to reverse a trend of losing employment to other regions of the world.

The summit, planned for March 20-21, will also hold "a first policy debate on the framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030 and agree on the way forward in terms of orientations and procedure".

It says the aim is to get an early agreement on the European Union's position on a carbon-cutting goal for 2030, so that it will be ready for U.N. negotiations on a global climate framework that are meant to be concluded in Paris next year.

EU diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, however, have said they do not expect agreement before June at the earliest. Poland and other east European countries with heavy reliance on carbon-intensive coal are seeking concessions.

Ministerial meetings on Monday and Tuesday in Brussels will also hold a preliminary debate on climate and energy policy.

HOW MANY GOALS?

The European Commission, the EU executive, in January outlined a binding goal to cut carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030 compared with 1990, up from an aim to cut carbon by 20 percent by 2020, which the EU has almost met.

Representatives of heavy industry have said they are relieved to see only one mandatory target, compared with the 2020 framework of multiple goals.

But they argue industry needs more help, especially with energy costs, which they say are augmented by climate policy.

For 2020, the Commission has a non-binding goal that 20 percent of gross domestic product should come from industry. Analysts say that is unlikely to be achieved given that the current share, roughly 15 percent, is edging down, not up.

Germany is a major exception as its industry generates nearly 22 percent of economic output and it has led calls for the manufacturing base to be protected.

The renewable sector, meanwhile, says it will suffer and green jobs will disappear without stronger policy.

The European Commission has suggested an EU-wide 2030 goal that 27 percent of energy used should be renewable, which critics say would be much harder to enforce than binding national targets.

The European Renewable Energy Council wants a higher target, binding on individual member states.

"With a renewable energy target of 30 percent in addition to a greenhouse gas target, there would be 568,000 more jobs and savings of about 260 billion euros ($355.72 billion) on fossil fuel imports, as well as lower energy costs for energy intensive industries," EREC President Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes said in an open letter to EU leaders, citing Commission data.

($1 = 0.7309 euros)

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