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UN Climate Talks’ Faltering Pace Makes It Harder For EU To Keep Lead

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Ben Garside and Barbara Lewis, Reuters

A weak deal at United Nations (UN) climate talks in Warsaw underlines how hard it will be for European Union (EU) leaders to forge an agreement on 2030 environment and energy goals early next year as some governments and businesses seek to place economics first.

EU envoys, who have long sought to lead the climate debate, hoped to persuade all countries to propose emission commitments in 2014 in the run-up to signing a global pact to tackle climate change in Paris in December 2015.

But the talks ended on Saturday with nothing more than a recommendation that parties announce plans for contributions on post-2020 emissions “by the first quarter of 2015 for those in a position to do so”.

The EU should be the first major bloc to outline energy and environmental targets for 2030.

Its executive, the European Commission, will unveil a discussion paper on EU-wide 2030 goals on January 21, Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said at a conference in Brussels on Tuesday.

Compared with 2020 targets including a 20% cut in emissions targets, the commission has been analysing the impact for 2030 of EU emission cuts of 35%, 40% and 45% under 1990 levels, EU sources have said.

The commission’s proposed climate and energy policy will be debated by the bloc’s leaders at a summit in March.

Ahead of that, nations including coal-dependent Poland have already expressed concern about the burden placed on industry if they act when other countries do not, arguing they will be at a competitive disadvantage.

The widening gap between Poland and nations such as Britain and France, which have called for what they see as ambitious carbon cuts, complicates the chances of securing EU-wide agreement.

The Warsaw talks “just underlined the difficulty … There is increasing divergence in the level of ambition at EU level”, said Felix Matthes, a researcher at Germany’s Oeko-Institute.

BusinessEurope, the 28-country bloc’s main business body, warned EU leaders against putting the 2030 target into law before other nations set their goals.

“BusinessEurope is concerned that the final (Warsaw) text reflects the reluctance of some of the parties to making strong commitments to a global deal,” Markus Beyrer, the group’s director general, said in a statement.

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