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European Union

Summit sticks to climate goals, despite financial crisis

Article published on the 2008-10-17 Latest update 2008-10-17 09:29 TU

French PM Francois Fillon (L),  Sarkozy (C) and  Barroso (R) (Photo: Reuters/Thierry Roge)

French PM Francois Fillon (L), Sarkozy (C) and Barroso (R)
(Photo: Reuters/Thierry Roge)

EU leaders said on Thursday they would stick to their climate change targets and timetable. But there are clear divisions among the 27 countries over how to share the gas emission cuts, widened by fears over the impact of the global economic crisis.

"The climate package is so important that we cannot simply drop it, under the pretext of a financial crisis." said French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, at the end of the two-day EU summit in Brussels,

"We are not going to let up on the battle against climate change," added European Commission chief José Manuel Barroso. "No question of choosing against combating the financial crisis and climate change."

Last year EU leaders promised to reduce greenhouse gas emission by by 20 per cent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels. They also agreed that renewable energies would comprise 20 per cent of all energy sources.

But some countries, especially coal-dependent industrial economies in eastern and central Europe, claim that the financial crisis means that the plan should be watered down.

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi joined them in declaring that the climate change goals are too big a burden for business in present circumstances.

EU environment ministers will meet in Luxembourg on Monday to hold detailed talks on national targets.

The summit's final declaration pledged to introduce the climate change package in a "cost-effective manner...having regard to each member state's specific situation".

On the global financial crisis, the 27 European heads said they would set up a financial crisis cell to act as an early warning system. They also pledged to strengthen Europe-wide supervision of cross-border finance groups.

Sarkozy said at the close of the EU summit that he would press Europe's calls for major reform of the financial system at the G8 emergency meeting to be held in November.

The EU heads also agreed to delay talks on an EU-Russia partnership, amid the concern over Russia's continuing presence in Georgia.