Guenther Oettinger, the EU's energy commissioner, has signaled opposition to British, French and German calls to cut carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2020.
Last year, the UK, French and German governments, as well as a large coalition of businesses and investors pushed the European Commission to raise the EU target of carbon cuts to 30 per cent from 20 per cent. They argued that it would give European industry a headstart in its race with China to dominate the rapidly growing global market for low-carbon technology.
However, the Guardian reports that Oettinger said the tougher target would force industries to move to Asia.
"If we go alone to 30 per cent, you will only have a faster process of de-industrialization in Europe," he said, citing the steel industry as one of the likely casualties. "I think we need industry in Europe, we need industry in the UK, and industry means CO2 emissions."
Europe could only adopt a tougher target if other major economies were also willing to do so, he said. "We are willing to go to 30 per cent if big global partners will follow us, but if not we won't."
Last spring, the EU's environment commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, published research that suggested the steep fall in emissions that followed the financial crisis and recession meant it would be far easier and cheaper than before for Europe to slash emissions.
Moving to the higher target would cost about EUR81bn ($110bn) a year by 2020, or 0.54 per cent of GDP, according to the Commission's research, compared with a cost of EUR48bn for the 20 per cent goal.
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