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Europe

Close, But No Cigar on EU Climate Deal

The European Union is on the verge of a climate package that would boost renewable energy, but Italy blocked the deal. UN climate change negotiations start this week in Poland.

Cooling towers fom a coal power plant belching smoke against blue sky

The deal would cut CO2 emissions by 20 percent

Talks on a new climate package among EU ministers ended in the Polish city of Gdansk Wednesday without a set deal.

Great strides were made toward closing the deal before negotiators from around the world descended on a UN climate change summit in Poznan, western Poland Thursday.

The talks firmed up the EU target to obtain 20 percent of energy from renewables by 2020 and mechanisms for improving the access of renewable energy to electricity grids were likewise agreed to. The new plan allows countries to team up on EU renewable energy projects and member states will now have to roll out detailed road maps on how to reach their national green energy targets.

Even Poland, which was threatening to veto any plans that would harm the economy of his coal-dependent country, said that an agreement was “close.”

"I think that we are close to a version acceptable for Poland... a version that will allow us to avoid a veto," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk told reporters without elaborating.

Biofuels also on the menu

The agreement on the climate package likewise extended to the controversial use of biofuels.

The European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, where EU law originates, proposed in January that 10 percent of road transport fuel should come from renewable sources, including biofuels, by 2020.

Environmentalists, however, charged that biofuels made from grains and oilseeds were pushing up food prices and forcing subsistence farmers to expand agricultural land by hacking into rainforests and draining wetlands -- known as "indirect land-use change".

To prevent a possible standoff over the controversial fuels, an agreement was made requiring that up to almost a third of the EU's 10 percent goal would be met through electric cars and trains.

Italy's insistence on review draws ire

Despite those compromises being made, Italy has demanded a review in 2014, which prevented a final agreement from being reached.

Their insistence drew ire from the European Parliament's lead negotiator Claude Turmes. "We have agreement on everything except the deletion of the review clause," he told Reuters news service after closed-door negotiations.

"We are disappointed that because of this sole blockage, the EU's French presidency was unable to take this to a final deal," he added.

The demand for the review, he went on to say, will undermine investment security and put thousands of new jobs in green industries at risks.

Environmental groups were likewise peeved.

"The negotiations were not concluded today because of one country, Italy, trying to destabilize the renewables directive in the interest of its large energy companies and against the interest of European citizens, the economy and the climate," said Greenpeace campaigner Frauke Thies.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and prime ministers from EU newcomers the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and Romania agreeing to meet again Saturday after the conclusion of UN climate talks.

France, which currently holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency, will be aiming to get the unanimous agreement of the bloc's 27 members on the proposed package at its December 11-12 summit in Brussels. The provisional deal will need approval by the European Parliament and all 27 European Union nations before becoming law.

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