Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has weighed into the controversy over
the European Union's climate change plans with an attack on some proposals as
"neither efficient, fair nor economically sustainable".
Just six months before France takes up the EU presidency, Mr Sarkozy has written
to Commission president José Manuel Barroso to set out his objections to the
plan for reducing carbon emissions to be published later this month.
In the letter seen by the Financial Times, Mr Sarkozy stresses his support for a
system to cut carbon emissions and promote the development of renewable energy.
However, he warns that, as currently structured, the proposals could unfairly
penalise France and would pose a real threat to European industry, which would
be forced to move to countries where regulations were less restrictive and
The car industry alone faces potential fines of between €4bn ($5.9bn, £3bn) and
€13bn if it does not meet strict criteria for cutting carbon, according to
The president's letter comes as EU member states lobby furiously for revisions
to the text, which has sparked concerns around Europe.
Germany's chancellor, Angel Merkel, has publicly criticised proposed
restrictions on carmakers, while Belgium's prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt, has
also written to the Commission to try to have his country's target on renewable
But the EU has staked its claim to leadership of the battle against climate
change by pledging to cut carbon emissions to 20 per cent below 1990 levels, to
boost renewable energy generation to 20 per cent of supply - a tripling of
current levels - and to ensure plant fuels make up 10 per cent of vehicle fuels,
all by 2020.
On January 23 the Commission will unveil how it intends to achieve this - and
how the load should be spread among different member states.
A spokeswoman for Stavros Dimas, the EU environment commissioner, said: "The
member states that are complaining are those that agreed to the targets. We are
executing a direct request from them. Everyone has to give their particular
share if we want to be leaders in the fight against climate change."
But France and others are determined to get the proposals revised before
discussions start on global reductions with a successor to the Kyoto Accord,
which will be negotiated over the next two years.
In his letter, Mr Sarkozy says France "could not accept a target for renewable
energy higher than 20 per cent, if accompanied by financial penalties".
Last summer France pledged to increase the share of renewable energy from 9 per
cent in 2007 to 20 per cent by 2020, in line with European goals. FT estimates
show that France is set for a target of about 22 per cent.
The fact that France opted decades ago to stake its future energy needs on
carbon-free nuclear power - which today provides almost 80 per cent of French
electricity needs - should be taken into account when setting overall targets,
"France emits 25 per cent less CO 2 per head than the European average," Mr
Sarkozy says. This should be the starting point for setting French targets in
reducing emissions and should vary according to each country's record, he adds.