Speed up EU climate policies to wrest free from Russia, 11 countries say

A pilot plant for carbon dioxide capture in Copenhagen, Denmark, on June 24, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (REUTERS) - European Union nations should speed up negotiations on new climate change policies and also increase the ambition of those proposals to quit Russian fossil fuels as soon as possible, 11 countries said on Thursday (April 7).

EU countries and the European Parliament are negotiating a raft of green measures this year, including a revamp of the EU's carbon market, a 2035 ban on new combustion engine cars, and higher targets to expand renewable energy.

The proposals are designed to cut net EU greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent by 2030 from 1990 levels. But their links to energy security have come into the spotlight as the bloc seeks to end its reliance on Russian fuels by 2027 - partly through renewable energy and energy savings - in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Now is the time to be bold and to move ahead with determination with the green transition. Any delay or hesitation will only prolong our energy dependence," 11 EU countries said in a joint statement, seen by Reuters and due to be published on Thursday.

"Negotiations on the package should therefore be accelerated and ambitions ramped up," they said, urging countries to get behind the proposals.

The statement was led by Denmark and signed by Austria, Germany, Spain, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Latvia, the Netherlands, Sweden and Slovenia.

Danish Climate Minister Dan Jorgensen said the countries were calling for a "green road to EU energy independence of Russian fossil fuels as soon as possible".

Not all countries agree. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Wednesday the EU should suspend its carbon market, the bloc's main emissions-cutting tool, in response to high energy prices. Poland has said the climate negotiations should be halted to assess the impact of the war.

Russia supplies 40 per cent of Europe's gas. The 11 countries said the dash to replace that with non-Russian gas must avoid locking in emissions and ensure the EU stays on track to eliminate its net emissions by 2050.

Brussels expects the climate proposals, if approved, to cut 30 per cent of EU gas use by 2030. A faster expansion of renewable energy and energy savings could also help rein in energy bills, which have soared amid high gas prices in recent months.

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