Brussels: European Union leaders met in Brussels Thursday to hammer down a major climate change package with Germany leading a push to thwart any deal which could jeopardise jobs at a time of recession.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, chief architect of the original package, is under heavy domestic pressure to secure more concessions for German industry ahead of elections next year.
Other European nations such as Italy and Poland have also voiced strong objections to the deal currently on the table.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, attending UN climate talks in Poland, said the outcome of the two-day summit in Brussels holds “great consequences for the whole world”.
“We look for leadership from the European Union. The decisions currently being made by European leaders in Brussels are of great consequences for the whole world,” he said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency until the end of the year, is keen to seal the climate change deal under his tenure -- along with agreement on a €200 billion ($263 billion) economic stimulus package, another major topic for the summiteers.
“Several elements remain open” on the climate package, he admitted ahead of the summit.
In a newspaper interview earlier this week, Merkel made clear she was prepared to play hardball to protect jobs after Europe’s biggest economy slipped into recession in the third quarter of the year.
“It must not take decisions that would endanger jobs or investments in Germany,” she told the top-selling Bild newspaper.“
“I will make sure of that,” added Merkel who has notably frosty relations with Sarkozy.
To help broker a deal, the French EU presidency offered last-minute concessions to Warsaw, in a draft text seen by AFP late Wednesday.
Poland and its fellow eastern European nations are seeking special treatment as they are heavily reliant on high-polluting coal for their energy.
The fresh proposals suggested a new mechanism for sharing out CO2 quotas, with Poland and Romania getting a special allocation of 12% against the previously suggested 10%.
The energy sectors of heavily-coal dependent nations would also receive some free emissions allowances until 2019 under the plan.
German and Italian energy producers swiftly denounced the special conditions, underlining the difficulties in making individual concessions.
The EU’s climate-energy package, the so-called “20-20-20” deal, seeks to decrease greenhouse gas emission by 20% by 2020, make 20% energy savings and bring renewable energy sources up to 20% of total energy use.
A deal on the renewables - wind, wave, solar power - was sealed earlier this week.
Europe wants to arrive at international climate talks in Copenhagen next December with a model scheme for the rest of the world, and has promised deeper cuts if there is a global deal.
While no one is openly seeking to dilute the overall goals, agreed by all 27 EU nations last year, governments are increasingly unwilling to incur extra green costs for their industries with the eurozone in recession.
“I expect a very tough debate,” Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra said on the eve of the summit.
The buzzword is “carbon leakage” whereby industry moves out of highly-regulated, therefore more expensive, regions.
Britain is opposed to part of the plan to give extra funding from the richer to the poorer EU nations.
The Czechs are insisting upon dispensations for the power generation sector, while Italy wants a 2014 review of the renewables target.
One of the most controversial aspects of the climate change/energy package is the emissions trading system, whereby polluters can buy and sell their polluting rights.
Under the scheme, industry will increasingly have to buy these rights from 2013 rather than receiving them for free as they do at present.