EU leaders reach climate deal

BRUSSELS (AFP) – European Union leaders yesterday agreed that developing nations will need 100 billion euros per year by 2020 to tackle climate change, but failed to put a figure on Europe’s own contribution amid sharp East-West differences. «We have an agreement,» said Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, at the end of a two-day European summit in Brussels. «The EU now has a strong negotiating position and the countdown to Copenhagen has started,» he added, referring to international climate talks to take place in Denmark in December. The leaders called for developed countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 percent by 2050, but went into little detail on how this could be done. «The EU is ready to take its fair share of the global effort,» they said in a statement. France, Germany and Italy had been keen not to show Europe’s hand ahead of the Copenhagen talks. «We are going to link our promises to what other countries offer and similarly our financial engagements,» German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose country had hoped for more flesh on the bones of the agreement, agreed that the deal shows that «the European Union and its member states are ready to contribute their fair share of the cost. Of course, that is conditional on other countries playing a part too,» he added. Even the 100-billion-euro (150-billion-dollar) per year figure which developing nations will need by 2020 will be found through an unspecified combination of developing countries’ «own efforts, the international carbon market and international public finance.» Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said that a working group would now be set up to seek a concrete formula on how the bill is to be divided up in Europe. Lithuania, Poland and seven other eastern EU nations have been firmly against the idea of linking contributions to polluting levels, which would leave them with a heavy bill. They instead suggested that the burden sharing be divided according to gross national income, which would put the onus very much on the richer Western European nations. «We don’t think you can make an assumption that Bulgaria or Romania will pay more than Denmark or the Netherlands because it would be purely absurd,» Polish EU Affairs Minister Mikolaj Dowgielewicz told reporters. The 27-nation bloc prides itself on leading the fight against climate change, and has already agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020. It needs a strong, unified line to take to Copenhagen if it is to persuade the likes of China, the United States and India to make huge cuts themselves. The EU also said it is willing to increase its own promised emissions cuts to 30 percent if the rest of the developed world does likewise at Copenhagen. «We can now look the rest of the world in the eyes and say we Europeans have done our job,» said EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso at the summit-closing press conference. «It was essential that the European Union keep its leadership role and we have done that,» he added. However, he cautioned that the EU «offers are not a blank check… we are ready to act if our partners are ready to deliver.» On Thursday, the first day of the summit, EU leaders cleared a major obstacle holding up the massive Lisbon reform treaty, paving the way for a new-look EU with its first ever president. They approved a proposal to satisfy a last-minute demand by the deeply Euroskeptic Czech President Vaclav Klaus for his country to win an opt-out from the EU’s charter of fundamental rights. Environmental groups express disappointment Environmental groups and political parties expressed disappointment yesterday that European Union leaders had failed to come up with enough money to help poorer countries fight global warming. «The EU failed to use this opportunity to put its money where its mouth is,» said Joris Den Blanken, the European climate policy director of environmental group Greenpeace, after an EU summit in Brussels. However he welcomed the EU’s commitment to help developing countries, saying that «the Copenhagen train is still running but the world desperately needs some climate leadership to stop the wheels from jumping off the track.» EU leaders decided that they would make a demand for help for developing countries worth 100 billion euros (148 billion dollars) a year by 2020, but did not agree on how the burden should be shared out. Toughest to convince were relatively poor Eastern European states dependent on coal for electricity, but Germany also led a group of nations that preferred not to stake out their position before other countries show their hand. «The EU has once again, on purpose, missed the chance to start international negotiations on the climate. It preferred to give into dissension, opacity and internal tactics during the negotiations between the member states,» the leaders of the Greens bloc in the European Parliament said.