European Union leaders have agreed new targets for carbon dioxide emissions reductions and renewables by 2020. They have also noted the role nuclear power plays in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The European Council meeting in Brussels reached agreement on a plan that requires greenhouse gas emissions to be cut by at least 20%from 1990 levels by 2020, and increase the share of renewable energy meeting the overall EU energy consumption to 20%.
The Council endorsed a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, provided that other developed countries made comparable commitments and advanced developing countries made adequate contributions.
The role of nuclear energy was one of the main debating points, with France, Slovakia, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic amongst others supporting nuclear as a means of moving away from fossil fuels. Austria, Ireland and Denmark did not want the EU to sanction nuclear power.
The Presidency Conclusions reiterated the established position that it is for each EU nation to decide whether to use nuclear power. However, the conclusions 'takes note' of a recently published European Commission report that states that nuclear energy could contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The 20% renewables target is an overall target, which will allow for individual targets to be set for each of the 27 EU member states. Significantly, the conclusions say that the individual allocations to EU countries (which have yet to be agreed) should take into account the existing levels of renewables and the energy mix in those countries, with reference to the later text on nuclear energy and separate text on carbon capture and sequestration.
"I insisted on placing renewable energy in a larger framework of low-carbon energy," French president Jacques Chirac said at his last EU summit, adding this category includes nuclear energy.
The conclusions also stressed the importance of improving nuclear safety and nuclear waste management, supporting research into waste management, 'envisioning' the creation of a high-level group on nuclear safety and waste management and suggesting that broad discussion takes place among all relevant stakeholders on the opportunities and risks of nuclear energy.
The Presidency Conclusions will be presented to G8 leaders at the next summit, to be hosted by Germany in June 2007. European leaders hope their commitments will persuade other G8 members to take action.
President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, said that "We can say to the rest of the world, Europe is taking the lead, you should join us in fighting climate change.''
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was 'hopeful' of a framework for a global agreement at the G8 meeting and the EU move creates "the best chance" of getting China, India and the USA to take action against climate change.
This arrangement was required by many of the new eastern European members of the EU who say that they require more time to reach the target. Countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, which are landlocked, said that their geographical position limited their options for renewable deployment.