BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders made progress on Friday toward an agreement on funding that could boost efforts to reach a global deal to fight climate change in Copenhagen in December.
Britain said agreement had already been reached on financing to help developing countries combat the effects of global warming. But diplomats said EU leaders were still trying to bridge a rift between countries in east and west Europe.
Agreement on the last day of an EU summit in Brussels would boost efforts to reach a deal at the international talks in Copenhagen on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the United Nations’ anti-climate change scheme, which expires in 2012.
“Europe is making three conditional offers, money on the table, saying we will do everything we can to make a climate change deal happen,” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said.
“I think this is a breakthrough that takes us forward to Copenhagen and makes a Copenhagen agreement possible.”
An EU diplomat later confirmed progress had been made but said: “I think they’ve come a long way, but not yet reached full agreement.”
The EU’s Swedish presidency drew up revised proposals after talks broke down on Thursday, largely because of a rift between nine countries from eastern Europe and the richer member states over how the burden should be shared. [nLT246249]
Funding is central to the chances of success in Copenhagen because developing countries say they will not sign up to tackling climate change without enough funds from rich nations.
A draft summit declaration showed the leaders of the 27 EU countries were preparing to back an estimate that developing nations need 100 billion euros ($148 billion) a year by 2020 to tackle climate problems.
The EU will put up some of that money, together with other countries and industry. But the poorer EU countries in eastern Europe want to know how much they will have to provide.
Many EU states say agreeing figures now would encourage others, such as the United States, to follow suit. But Germany wants to wait until other global powers have said how much they will provide.
“The EU will be pioneering in this respect (financing). However, the commitments will also be tied to other countries making similar financial pledges,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters.
The EU leaders faced criticism from Nobel-prize winning South African cleric Desmond Tutu, who urged Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in particular to help make a deal possible in Copenhagen.
“World leaders are backtracking, mumbling about domestic difficulties and lack of time whilst the European Union, previously progressive champions for action on climate change, is paralyzed by the unseemly bickering amongst its member states over who will pay the bill,” he wrote.
The main achievement on the first day of the summit was an agreement opening the way to ratification of the Lisbon treaty, which would ease EU decision-making, create an EU president and increase the powers of its foreign policy chief. [nL0338354]
Under the deal, the leaders accepted Czech President Vaclav Klaus’s demands for an opt-out from a rights charter attached to the treaty, to shield the Czech Republic from property claims by ethnic Germans expelled after World War Two.
Ratification by the Czech Republic, the only EU state that has not ratified, now depends on its constitutional court rejecting a legal challenge in a ruling expected on Tuesday.
The leaders said they did not discuss who would be the EU president, but former British prime minister Blair’s hopes faded when his candidacy failed to secure the blessing of European socialists who are his ruling Labour Party’s allies.
The post is now more likely to go to a center-right leader, especially as center-right parties dominate the European Parliament and form a majority among EU leaders.
No front-runner has emerged, but possible contenders include Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, former Finnish prime minister Paavo Lipponen and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker.
Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Kevin Liffey