Europe switches to Plan B in new China-U.S. climate pitch
Stalled climate talks extended to U.N. summit in Cancun this winter.
Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 03:20 PM
POLITICAL MANUVERING: European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso wants 'concrete and immediate action' to deal with already irreversible consequences of climate change. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
Europe pushed China, the United States and a host of emerging powers on Thursday to extend a soon-to-expire deal to combat global warming at crunch talks in Mexico.
According to a letter from European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso to EU president Herman Van Rompuy, seen by AFP, a "second commitment period" under the Kyoto Protocol that runs out in 2012 should be the target in Cancun.
Neither China nor the United States are bound by the Kyoto package which was agreed in 1997, completed in 2005 with Russia's ratification and established commitments from 2008 to 2012.
While Beijing signed, it escaped engagements, and Washington never ratified its political commitment.
Thanks essentially to a Chinese refusal to budge on the issue, world leaders failed to agree on a post-Kyoto package that would raise commitments to cut harmful greenhouse gas emissions in Copenhagen last December.
Brussels wants to breathe new life into the old deal, even if it falls short of internal goals, but only if "key conditions" are met.
Barroso is bidding to muster support from European leaders at a summit in Brussels in two weeks' time.
The offer sets the stage for renewed tension between Brussels and Beijing, fresh from a head-to-head summit earlier this month that broke up with China effortlessly swatting away EU complaints on currency and human rights issues.
Fifteen of the EU's 27 members are signatories to a treaty that binds countries to an eight percent reduction in emissions by 2012.
But EU environment ministers chewing over the plan in Luxembourg on Thursday were divided on the need for it to be legally binding.
"We want Europe to be willing to sign up to another phase of the Kyoto Protocol — but only if other countries, like the US and China, are covered by a new legal agreement as well," said British minister for climate change, Greg Barker.
Italy, which wrapped up a series of big business deals when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao went to Rome the day after the Brussels summit, also insisted that pen be put to paper in Beijing.
But France's Jean-Louis Borloo argued that this was "unrealistic", saying afterwards that "the others followed and the meeting ended well."
Joke Schauvliege of Belgium, chairing the talks, said Europe had "reawakened trust in Cancun," referring to the next UN climate meeting from November 29 to December 10 in Mexico.
EU climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard stressed that "if we accept unconditional (terms)... that would not lead to one additional reduced tonne of CO2" entering the atmosphere.
She also admitted that "as long as the Americans have not got their legislation through Senate, it is easier for other partners to hide".
But she said she was happy with a package that also reaffirmed the EU's vow to step up 2.4 billion euros per year of so-called "fast-start" finance in the three-year interim.
Barroso wants "concrete and immediate action" to deal with already irreversible consequences of climate change.
Polar bears are having to swim ever farther in search of food due to melting ice, and Brussels says countries must already change behaviour likewise.
Other areas that should be written in would include reducing deforestation, accelerated investment in new technology, building global monitoring systems for more robust forecasts and improvements in the market for UN-based carbon emissions permits.
An EU source said that the bloc wanted to remove its label among opponents as the "Kyoto Killer."
A longstanding offer to increase greenhouse gas reduction to 30 percent remains on the table.
Copyright 2010 AFP Global Edition