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Looking ahead to Kyoto - EU Commissioners present their views

European Commissioners Ritt Bjerregaard (Environment) and Christos Papoutsis (Energy) presented their views on the global climate change debate at a conference held in Brussels, Belgium, on 6 November 1997 - just one month before the UN international climate change conference ...

European Commissioners Ritt Bjerregaard (Environment) and Christos Papoutsis (Energy) presented their views on the global climate change debate at a conference held in Brussels, Belgium, on 6 November 1997 - just one month before the UN international climate change conference in Kyoto (Japan). The EU is calling for emissions of three greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (NO2) - to be cut to 15% below 1990 levels by 2010. Commissioner Bjerregaard stressed, however, that the EU's target can only be achieved if it is matched by the other major industrialized countries. At present, US and Japanese positions are far less ambitious, with the US proposing to stabilize at 1990 levels by 2012 and Tokyo agreeing to a 5% reduction by the same date. Mrs. Bjerregaard defended the EU position stating that "These emission targets have not been dreamed up as suggested by some of our critics. They were agreed at the highest political level because of their environmental necessity and on the basis of studies showing that the targets are technically possible, economically manageable and politically feasible using existing technologies and practices." Both Commissioners Bjerregaard and Papoutsis emphasized the central role of energy use and production in the climate debate. Mr. Papoutsis noted that the energy sector is facing a major challenge - "The role of energy production, distribution and use is quite critical for the emission level of the different greenhouse gases. The special focus on carbon dioxide emissions puts energy in the front row of the policy debate". In this context, Commissioner Papoutsis outlined the elements of the Commission's energy policy likely to contribute to the EU's climate policy: "Looking at our energy actions programme, four specific initiatives will make an important contribution to our overall efforts on greenhouse gas emission reduction. Firstly, greater penetration of renewable energy sources. Secondly, promotion of combined heat and power production (co-generation). Thirdly, energy saving measures. Fourthly, enhanced efficiency improvements for industrial products and processes, in buildings and transportation". The Commissioners expressed their hopes for a positive outcome of the Kyoto conference, stressing their belief that the EU approach offers the best bid for an effective agreement. Commenting on the EU contribution to the debate, Mrs. Bjerregaard stated "I am going to Kyoto to get results. The EU will fight every inch of the way. In Rio we said we must act, in Berlin we said we must act, in Kyoto I hope we will".

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