India opens door to climate deal, EU stuck

NEW DELHI/BRUSSELS Fri Oct 16, 2009 2:57pm EDT

An oil refinery is seen in Norco, Louisiana August 15, 2008. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

An oil refinery is seen in Norco, Louisiana August 15, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

NEW DELHI/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - India softened climate demands on Friday, helping bridge a rich-poor divide, but said a global deal may miss a December deadline by a few months.

In contrast, European Union states struggled to agree a common stance for financing a U.N. climate pact, meant to be agreed in Copenhagen at a December 7-18 meeting.

India wanted generous aid on advanced carbon-cutting technologies but dropped a core demand that industrialized countries cut greenhouse gases by 40 percent by 2020.

"If we say, let's start with 25 percent, that's a beginning. I'm not theological about this. It's a negotiation. We have given a number of 40 but one has to be realistic," environment minister Jairam Ramesh said in a Reuters interview.

Ramesh said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, keen to overturn India's image as obstructionist in multi-lateral negotiations, had mandated him to be flexible.

"I tell you my prime minister has told me two days ago, 'don't block, be constructive...make sure there's an agreement.' What more can I say?"

Indian is now in line with the European Union, which has promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20-30 percent by 2020 below 1990 levels. U.S. President Barack Obama wants to return U.S. emissions to 1990 levels by then.

India also now supported a British estimate that the developed world should pay about $100 billion annually by 2020 to help poorer nations cope with and slow climate change.

Until now it has suggested that the developed world pay 1 percent of their national wealth -- a far higher figure which some rich countries branded a fantasy.

But Europe struggled to find a common position on climate finance on Friday, as member states guard national treasuries with a robust economic recovery still not in sight.

SILENT

The EU was silent about stepping up climate aid to developing nations, after talk last month from its executive Commission of paying up to 15 billion euros ($22.4 billion) a year by 2020 to break the impasse between rich and poor.

China and India say they cannot cut emissions and adapt to changing temperatures without help from industrialized nations, which grew rich by burning fossil fuels, emitting carbon.

A draft EU report for finance ministers called the past figures "a useful estimate for overall public and private efforts" but pointed to the "uncertainty...of such numbers."

And cracks emerged over EU plans for cuts in emissions.

The 27-country bloc has pledged to cut its own emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and to increase cuts to 30 percent if other rich regions take similar action.

But Romania and Slovakia have proposed making the increase to 30 percent less of a foregone conclusion, documents obtained by Reuters show. Romania also questions proposals to cut emissions by up to 95 percent by 2050.

In Nairobi, the United Nations on Friday urged a smarter approach to biofuels that could be part of a shift to renewable energies under a Copenhagen deal.

"A more sophisticated debate is urgently needed," U.N. Environment Programme Executive Director Achim Steiner told reporters.

Generating electricity at power stations using wood, straw, seed oils and other crop or waste material was "generally more energy efficient than converting crops to liquid fuels."

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