EU resolution to nudge higher goal for carbon cuts

BRUSSELS/STRASBOURG Tue Nov 15, 2011 4:03pm EST

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BRUSSELS/STRASBOURG (Reuters) - European politicians are expected to vote through a resolution on Wednesday that nudges higher the bloc's ambitions to deepen its carbon reduction, ahead of climate change talks this month in Durban, a European Parliament source said.

The European Union laid out its negotiating stance ahead of the Durban conference at a meeting of its Environment Council in October. Ministers said then the bloc would commit to a new phase of the Kyoto climate change pact on condition the big emitters gave a firm pledge to join in.

Tuesday's parliamentary debate, to be followed by a vote on Wednesday, aired the political mood but the resolution will not be binding.

The European Parliament source, who asked not to be identified, said voting indications implied it was almost certain to pass.

"I can't guarantee it, but it's pretty clear the resolution will get through," the source said.

The parliamentary motion welcomed the European Commission's analysis of how a 30 percent cut in carbon emissions, or "climate protection target", could be achieved.

It added it was "in the EU's own interest to aim for a climate protection target of over 20 percent, since this would have the simultaneous effect of creating green jobs, growth and security".

The center-right European Conservatives and Reformists grouping put forward an amendment to remove those clauses, but the source said there was no sign it had sufficient backing.

As part of a wider need to cut emissions, the resolution urged the international community to close the gigatonne gap between the tones of carbon that nations have said they will cut and the amount needed to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius -- the cap scientists say could prevent catastrophic climate change.

The other gap that it said must be plugged is in funding to help developing countries adapt to climate change.

A shortfall opens up after the end of 2012, when short-term financing ceases. Longer-term funding is not provided for until 2020, by which time previous climate change summits have agreed to raise $100 billion annually.

"Economic crisis cannot serve as an excuse for doing nothing," Jo Leinen, chairman of the European Parliament's environment committee, told Tuesday's debate.

LOW EXPECTATIONS

Almost no one believes the Durban talks can come up with an immediate successor to the first stage of the Kyoto Protocol.

"We all know that Durban is not going to deliver what we in Europe would like to see," EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard told the debate.

"A comprehensive, legally binding international framework covering all parties remains the best way to keep the global temperature increase below 2 degrees."

A more realistic goal for Durban, Hedegaard and many others have said, is that it can lay the foundations for a follow-up global treaty to take effect at some point and meanwhile strengthen other mechanisms to try to limit global warming.

The October Environment Council conclusions reaffirmed the EU's conditional offer to move to a 30 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2020 compared with 1990. The conditions included that other developed nations commit to comparable reductions.

Already the EU has agreed binding targets to lower its emissions by 20 percent by 2020 -- more than its commitment under the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of next year.

Ministers have said a deeper, binding target for cutting carbon would be politically difficult for now after Poland, holder of the EU presidency, blocked an attempt to introduce a 25 percent ambition earlier this year.

(Editing by Dale Hudson)

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