Seville (Spain): European Union countries struggled Saturday to reach a consensus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in an attempt to regain influence in the global debate on climate change ahead of the next UN climate conference later this year.
Environment ministers meeting informally in the Spanish city of Seville disagreed on whether the EU should commit to cutting its emissions by 20 or 30 percent, sources close to the negotiations said.
Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and France were so far unable to push through their proposal of raising the target to 30 percent in an attempt to press other countries to make similar concessions, the sources said.
December`s Copenhagen climate conference yielded only a broad, non-binding agreement, and the EU is hoping for a legally binding deal between November and December in Mexico.
The EU had not played a sufficient role to make Copenhagen successful, German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said.
The United States had not even "come close" to the European position, while China had used "preventative" tactics, Roettgen complained.
"We have an incredible mutual diplomatic network, and we want to pool them to make Mexico a success," Belgian Environment Minister Paul Magnette said.
EU countries would make use of their diplomatic relations, for instance, with Portugal trying to influence Brazil and Belgium lobbying with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Magnette said.
The Copenhagen agreement requires all nations to present emission reduction targets by Jan 31.
The EU has long said that it would cut emissions by 20 percent by 2020 compared to 1990, increasing this to 30 percent if other countries make comparable commitments.
However, disagreements surfaced in Seville, with some countries wanting the EU to already commit to 30 percent while Poland, Italy and Hungary wanted to omit any reference to that target, sources close to the negotiations said.
"Twenty percent is no longer really ambitious," Roettgen said, explaining that European economies "could afford" a 30-percent cut.
"We need to go to the maximum, but not allow Europe to break up over this question," French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said.
If Europe committed to a 30-percent cut and other countries did not follow suit, it should be possible to consider protecting European industry with measures such as taxes on products imported from nations that block the adoption of binding reduction targets, Borloo said.
EU ambassadors were due to discuss the target Wednesday in Brussels.
Teresa Ribera, Spanish climate-change secretary of state, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, stressed that negotiations should take place within the UN, which was the only global forum.
She was seen as reacting to suggestions from the US that the largest emitters should seal a deal outside of "chaotic" UN meetings, Spanish media reported.