The last few weeks have been crucial in the debate over climate
change. On 10 January the European Commission
outlined plans for a 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 compared to 1990 levels
. Last week an international panel on climate
change forecast global temperature rises between 1.8C and 4C by 2100. Two days earlier MEPs - who want a 30% cut in emissions - debated the issue in Brussels - you can watch the full debate by clicking on "previous plenary sessions" below.
Growing energy consumption threatens environment
It is clear that the carbon-hungry economies of the industrialised world must find alterative forms of energy if they wish to reduce CO2 emissions. How to achieve this was a crucial part of the debate.
One option is the use of nuclear fuel. Herbert Reul of the European People's Party said this "would give us 70% of electrical production but in a CO2 free manner". For the Liberal ALDE group Anne Laperrouze called for fiscal measures to promote energy effiency and the use of biofuels and renewable energy.
One thing that all MEPs agreed on was the urgency of the problem. Socialist MEP Matthias Groote told the House that "in the politics of climate change the expression 'time is money' has another meaning".
This point was reiterated by German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel - speaking for the current holders of the EU presidency - who said that "if we continue to consume as much energy, in 50 years we will need a 2nd planet".
Car usage fuels climate change
A key aspect of the debate was the extent to which transport - and in particular cars - were making climate change worse. In the debate German Green Rebecca Harms launched a scathing attack on the Berlin government saying "Germany torpedoed the goals of CO2 reduction for the automobile industry, because it protects the small segment of the big luxurious limousines, which are produced in Germany. Suddenly we don't talk about climate protection anymore but about Porsches!"
Mr Gabriel said this was not the case and that the "objective of 120g of CO2/km can be achieved by combining improved vehicle technology and the use of bio fuels".
This theme of the type of cars being produced was taken up by Graham Watson for the Liberals. He asked fellow MEPs "do we really need cars that go from 0 to 100 km per hour in less than six seconds if it will destroy our planet in less than six decades?"
For many MEPs increasing the emphasis on public transport was vital. For the Socialist Group Gyula Hegyi said that "road transport uses five times more energy than train transport for the same number of passengers. That is why public transport should be a priority for us".
"Why not partnership with China and India?"
To what extent the EU should project its power on to the international stage was a vital part of the debate. Francis Wurtz of the European United Left pointed out that the EU has made a bad start in meeting its Kyoto commitments and that if this continues it will "lead the planet to unsustainable upheaval".
As to what the EU should do to influence countries like China and India that are experiencing rapid economic growth with increasing carbon usage, Anders Wijkman of the European People's Party asked "why not establish partnership with China and India?" He warned that failure to do so would make "what we are doing... marginal".
Calls for 25% increases in renewable energy
Last April Parliament adopted a regulation to reduce and prohibit the use of fluorinated gases used in the production of air conditioning units, refrigerators and insulating foam.
In January 2006 MEPs passed a resolution on climate change, restating the commitment to "undertake strong emissions reductions for developed countries of 30% by 2020". It calls for better technology cooperation to combat climate change.
A further resolution on climate change next week calls for renewable energy to make up 25% of the EU total by 2020.