EU calls for more U.S. involvement in climate works

BRUSSELS Tue Dec 22, 2009 1:46pm EST

1 of 2. A chimney billows smoke behind electricity wires in central Beijing December 21, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/David Gray

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union called on the United States on Tuesday to play a bigger role in combating climate change, after Sweden described the Copenhagen summit last week as a "great failure."

Following a meeting in Brussels to discuss how to rescue the Copenhagen climate process, EU environment ministers emphasized the need for concrete, legally binding measures to combat global warming.

The European Union went to Copenhagen with the hope of achieving a broad commitment to at least a 20-percent cut in carbon emissions below 1990 levels within 10 years, but that and other firm goals failed to emerge in the final accord.

The two-week, United Nations-led conference ended on Saturday with a non-legally binding agreement to limit global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times, but did not lay out how to achieve that.

Despite months of preparation and strenuous diplomacy, the talks boiled down to an inability of the world's two largest emitters, the United States and China, to agree fixed targets.

"Expectations and pressure on the United States have risen after Copenhagen ... to really deliver," Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren told a news briefing on Tuesday after Sweden, as EU president until December 31, chaired pan-EU talks.

Ministers from the EU's 27 member states will meet again in January to discuss what role the EU can play in cobbling together a stronger agreement.

DASHED PLANS

The bloc went to Copenhagen with a unified position and a plan for financing emissions cuts in the developing world, with a commitment to spend around 7 billion euros ($10 billion) over the next three years to aid poorer countries.

But those aims were largely sidelined as the talks failed to produce a breakthrough. Carlgren described the summit as a "disaster" and a "great failure," despite what he called Europe's united efforts.

"Europe never lost its aim, never, never came to splits or different positions, but of course this was mainly about other countries really (being) unwilling, and especially the United States and China," Carlgren said.

Britain on Monday blamed China and a handful of other countries of holding the world to ransom by blocking a legally binding treaty at Copenhagen, stepping up a blame game that has gathered momentum since the talks ended.

In a sharply worded response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu rejected accusations that China had "hijacked" the climate talks and added: "The statements from certain British politicians are plainly a political scheme."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown described the summit as "at best flawed and at worst chaotic" and demanded an urgent reform of the process to try to reach a legal treaty when talks are expected to resume in Germany next June.

But Danish Climate Minister Connie Hedegaard, who quit as president of the talks midway through after being criticized by African countries for favoring wealthier nations in negotiations, said there was no point in getting depressed.

"What we need to do is to secure the step that we took and turn it into a result," she told reporters as she arrived for the Brussels meeting on Tuesday. Asked whether Copenhagen had been a failure, she replied:

"It would have been a failure if we had achieved nothing. But we achieved something -- a first step.

"It was the first time we held a process where all the countries were present, including the big emitters."

(Additional reporting by Yvonne Bell and Luke Baker; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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