EU to cut global warming gases by a tenth

The European Union yesterday set an ambitious target for cutting emissions of "greenhouse gases", in the hope that this will galvanise the rest of the industrialised world into acting against the threat of man-made climate change.

After a night and a day of talks in Brussels, environment ministers from the 15 member states pledged a 10-per-cent cut in annual emissions of the three most important global warming pollutants between 2000 and 2010.

But they said the EU wants all industrialised nations, including the European bloc, to deliver a 15-per-cent cut over this period. They will call for this larger cut in Bonn this week at international talks on combating climate change. "We are ready to deliver this deeper cut if others are," one official said.

The European ministers agreed on individual emission cuts for each of the 15 nations. When these individual targets are added up, they give a 10 per cent overall reduction.

The gases in question are carbon dioixide (by far the most important), methane and nitrous oxide. The use of coal, oil and gas, the lifebloods of European industry, is the main source, with cement and nylon manufacture, garbage heaps and agriculture making a minor contribution.

Ministers were anxious to reach a joint EU agreement on cutting emissions in order to send a strong message to the international negotiations. These are paving the way to a climate summit in Japan at the end of the year.

Under the EU agreement, the poorer Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Portugal will be able to raise their emissions between 2000 and 2010 as they industrialise.

Germany and Austria will cut theirs by 25 per cent. Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium will take a 10-per-cent cut, while France and Finland will merely have to stabilise their annual emissions over the decade.