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The European Parliament has today voted against raising the EU’s emission reduction targets from its current goal of reducing emissions 20 per cent against 1990 levels by 2020 to a 30 per cent cut by the same date. The vote represents a major blow to efforts to encourage the EU to deliver more ambitious targets.

The vote was initially scheduled for the end of last month but was delayed until lunchtime today, when MEPs voted 347-258 against the proposal.

The UK, France and Germany had teamed up with a number of other member states to push for the higher target to be adopted, arguing that the impact of the recession on emission levels meant the more ambitious target could be reached at relatively little additional cost.

Their position was strengthened when the European Commission’s recent Roadmap to 2050 report warned that cuts to emissions of 30 per cent by 2020 would be required if the EU is to meet its longer term goal of an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by the middle of the century.

The report predicted that the €270bn of investment needed to meet the more ambitious goal would be more than offset by €320bn savings in fuel costs and air quality benefits worth up to €88bn a year by 2050.

However, opponents to raising the target, led by Poland, which has just took over the EU presidency, and energy commissioner Günther Oettinger, successfully argued that raising the target when other large economies are yet to sign up to similarly ambitious emission reduction targets would undermine the EU’s competitiveness and encourage many carbon intensive manufacturing industries to leave the bloc.

The vote will also prove embarrassing to David Cameron who saw a number of Conservative MEPs defy the prime minister to vote against moving to a 30 per cent target.

The vote represents a major blow to efforts to encourage the EU to deliver more ambitious targets. There had been mooted proposals for a 25 per cent target, but it looks like any change to the 20 per cent goal will now be shelved until international climate change negotiations can show that other major economies such as the US and China are willing to agree to more ambitous carbon targets.

BusinessGreen, 5 July 2011