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EU Environment Ministers Attempt to Iron Out CO2 Problems

Environment ministers from the EU's 27 member states meet in Paris for a two-day meeting starting July 3 with the aim of clearing some of the many obstacles besetting their goal of slashing carbon emissions by 2020.

Car exhaust

The EU ministers will try and solve the problems shackling its CO2 reduction plan

Taking charge of the first top-level environmental debate of the French EU Presidency, French Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo was expected to ask his counterparts to identify two key areas of national concern to help spur the negotiation process.

"I find the mood is good, there's no posturing, no-one's playing games, but at the same time we are dealing with a question that's tough, there are very tough things here," Borloo told reporters.

"To put things in perspective, the economies of 27 countries with a variety of backgrounds in energy and industry are being asked to make a somewhat radical shift using everyday budgets," he said. "At the moment, no other region in the world is attempting something on this scale."

Agreement lacking on CO2 level details

The EU is struggling to agree on the details of its plan to reduce the 27-nation bloc's greenhouse-gas pollution by 20 percent by 2020 compared with the benchmark year 1990. They promised to deepen this to 30 percent if another industrialized power followed suit.

They also pledged to boost the share of renewables in the EU energy mix to 20 percent, including a 10-percent share for biofuels.

However, agreement on these broad goals has become a touchy and complex issue in light of the surge in oil and gas prices.

Clouds of smoke billow from a metal alloy factory in Gaolan county in northwest China's Gansu province

The EU wants to lead the fight against global emissions

Several countries dependent on coal, Russian gas and Soviet-era nuclear plants are pleading for get-outs or easier terms, and the role of biofuels has come under attack for its impact on global food prices.

Other thorny areas include the future allocation of emissions quotas by industry under the EU's carbon market and measures to curb pollution by the transport sector.

Borloo hopes to wrap up the deal on the climate and energy package by year's end, so that the EU is in a position to wield clout at the UN talks in Poznan, Poland, in December that will shape a worldwide pact on tackling climate change beyond 2012, when the current provisions of the Kyoto Protocol expire.

The meeting, taking place at the Saint-Cloud chateau on the western outskirts of Paris, finishes Friday. It will be followed by an informal meeting of EU energy ministers on Friday and Saturday.

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