Friday, March 9, 2007

Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus yesterday issued a stinging attack on “ideological environmentalism” and the campaign against global warming on a day when European Union leaders struck an ambitious deal to cut carbon emissions and energy use across the 27-nation bloc.

Wrapping up a five-day Washington visit that included meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Mr. Klaus said the global warming movement was based on shaky science, a distrust of free markets and a preference for central bureaucratic control over individual freedom.

“Environmentalism only pretends to deal with environmental protection,” Mr. Klaus said in an address to the libertarian Cato Institute. “Behind the terminology is really an ambitious attempt to radically reorganize the world.”

Just hours before he spoke, EU leaders meeting in Brussels reached a deal to set binding targets on increased renewable energy, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and other measures designed to cut energy use.

The EU deal was a personal triumph for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who pushed for an agreement at the two-day summit as the current chairman of the bloc.

The Czech Republic and other fast-growing East European countries, many still with smokestack industries heavily dependent on coal and oil, had balked at tougher conservation targets favored by more prosperous EU members to the west.

Mr. Klaus declined to criticize Czech officials who signed the deal, saying his government had pressed for a “milder” outcome and is “trying to find a rational way” to deal with the climate change issue.

As president of an EU state neighboring EU powerhouse Germany, Mr. Klaus said he would not be “organizing opposition” to Mrs. Merkel’s agreement, but left little doubt he opposed the spirit and the substance of the EU energy pact.

The Brussels deal put off one of the toughest decisions: While the EU nations as a whole committed to a 20 percent boost by 2020 in the use of renewable energy such as wind and solar power, the targets for individual countries will be set at a later date.

Currently, the EU average for renewable fuels as a percentage of total use is around 7 percent.

Setting those national targets “will be a huge, huge job from a legal and technical point of view,” Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, the EU executive arm, told reporters.

Other key aspects of the deal include:

c By 2020, EU leaders agreed to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent, compared to 1990 levels. Mrs. Merkel said she would press world leaders at this summer’s Group of Eight summit in Germany to boost that target to 30 percent, if other major producers would match the EU cuts.

c The leaders made a “political commitment” to have at least 10 percent of all cars and trucks in the bloc running on plant-based “biofuels,” also by 2020.

• EU officials said they would also consider a ban on filament light bulbs in the next few years, forcing a switch to a new generation of more expensive but longer-lasting fluorescent bulbs.

Mr. Barroso said the Brussels deal will give EU countries negotiating leverage to press the United States and major developing countries like India and China to cut their own carbon emissions. But critics said Europe’s difficulty in targets set in the Kyoto climate change pact for 2012 could undercut that leverage.

Mr. Klaus said the global warming movement was just the latest environmental scare campaign, following on the short-lived fears of a population explosion in the 1970s and the expanding ozone hole in the 1980s.

“They keep shooting at a moving target,” he said.

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