Far from the financial crisis acting as a spring board for a green revolution, several EU leaders produced a predictable political response yesterday by trying to undermine ambitious CO2 targets.

President Sarkozy of France, who holds the EU presidency, led the way in appealing to all 27 countries to stick to their target to cut Europe’s CO2 emissions by 20 per cent by 2020. 

But a revolt by eight countries, led by Italy and Poland, left the EU’s self-proclaimed mission to shape the first parts of a post-Kyoto agreement in “disarray”, according to the Times newspaper. Plans for binding European legislation by December have now been dropped, with key targets quietly watered down.

Leading the rebellion was Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, backed up by the Polish Prime Minister, who both argued that because they were not in power when the original agreements were mooted, they did not have to sign up. If the EU adopted that kind of political mindset nothing would be achieved. Can you imagine any one of the 27 EU governments saying it could not sign something because their political predecessor had done it? It would be a political dead-lock.

Backing these two up are Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia, who are now threatening to form a minority block to veto any forthcoming legislation , however much it is watered down.

Other media are being slightly optimistic about the deal, with the BBC arguing that “EU leaders will maintain their targets and timetable for tackling climate change, despite objections from some nations” and the Guardian reporting that the “EU leaders have reasserted their ambition to lead the world in fighting climate change despite the growing economic recession and mounting rifts among its 27 governments.”

Apparently Sarkozy warned the other leaders that they would be held in “ridicule” if they abandoned their 18-month-old target.

No change there then. Most of the leaders are held in ridicule already…