The European Commission is arguing that Europe should set a new, unilateral, target for cutting CO2 emissions, agree legally binding plans to boost renewable energy and bring cars into its carbon trading scheme.
The secret blueprint, drawn up by the Commission’s vice-president, Gunther Verheugen, marks a significant shift in thinking as officials in Brussels seek to “green” their economic policy. While the Commission, led by José Manuel Barroso, has sought to boost “growth and jobs”, environmental policy has so far been seen as a separate policy area.
In a letter to Mr Barroso and other Commissioners obtained by The Independent newspaper, Mr Verheugen, who is responsible for industrial policy, suggested several controversial plans, including the idea of bringing car drivers into the EU emissions trading scheme.
His intervention has sparked a vigorous debate in Brussels. One critic of the European Commission vice-president accused him of “trying to jump on the green bandwagon without knowing the issues very well.”
However, his defenders say that Mr Verheugen is one of the few senior figures in Brussels trying to reconcile the need for economic growth with growing concerns over the environment.
At present the EU is struggling to meet its international commitments. Projections suggest that the EU countries will only just meet their Kyoto targets of cutting CO2 emissions by 8 per cent of 1990 levels by 2012.