EU's Ashton to engage China on climate change

BRUSSELS Thu Feb 11, 2010 9:18am EST

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union's new foreign policy chief wants the EU to work more closely with China on climate issues and search for trade-offs with other policy areas, an EU official said on Thursday.

Catherine Ashton will brief a summit of EU leaders on Thursday about her policy vision in areas such as climate, trade and security.

"She won't be saying that we're flexible on everything, but she doesn't want climate change to be seen as an isolated issue," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Most EU leaders were disappointed by the outcome of United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen in December, which failed to set emissions reduction targets.

Some pointed the finger at China, the world's largest climate polluter, for missing an opportunity to break the deadlock.

"She'll say let's not fall into the trap of bashing China -- what is much more interesting now is to look much more strategically at how we can deal with China on those issues, look at what they want ... what is the room for maneuver."

An example of something China wants from Europe is "market economy status," which would help in trade talks.

"One thing that springs to mind is that the Chinese are important partners on issues like Iran and other issues," he added.

The Copenhagen talks ended with a weak accord, which puts the world on track for global temperature rises to around 3.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, climatologists say.

Further U.N. discussions are planned for Bonn, Germany in May and for Mexico in November.

But recent setbacks to climate policy in the world's second-largest emitter, the United States, make international climate progress increasingly difficult. EU negotiators say they will make the most of 2010 by pushing bilateral talks.

Ashton also wants to propose a more coherent approach to other big economies such as Brazil, India and South Africa on issues including climate, the official said.

"Nobody has defined how we can build something that leads to results with countries like Brazil and South Africa," he said.

(Editing by James Jukwey)

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