EU agrees stance for Cancun climate talks

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will only sign up to a second phase of the United Nation’s climate treaty if loopholes are closed and other big economies make deeper cuts to greenhouse gases, EU leaders agreed on Friday.

“The European Union stands ready with an ambitious approach as regards emissions, provided other major emitters also take their responsibilities,” Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, said after a summit of EU leaders.

The Kyoto Protocol, the U.N.’s main tool for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, expires at the end of 2012 and ministers from around the world will fly to Cancun, Mexico in November to try to make progress toward a new deal.

“It is going to be difficult negotiations, but we believe this can be achieved,” said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

“The goal for Cancun remains a balanced set of decisions which keep up the momentum toward an international framework to keep global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius.”

Leaders believe the EU’s goal of curbing carbon emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels over the next decade is the world’s most ambitious plan, and fear they would put their economies at risk by going further alone.

After Cancun, they will reconsider whether to increase Europe’s ambitions beyond 20 percent carbon cuts.

Leaders also endorsed an agreement this month by EU environment ministers that it was only worth continuing with the Kyoto Protocol’s next phase if gaps were closed and other major economies increased their efforts to cut emissions of the gases blamed for global warming.

Environment ministers said the U.N.’s system for carbon offsetting must be reformed, emissions from forestry should be tackled and countries will have to take a serious look at scrapping excess U.N. carbon offsets, known as AAUs, that threaten to undermine the system.

Reporting by Pete Harrison and Juliane von Reppert-Bismarck, editing by Rex Merrifield