EU offers climate aid

The European Union outlined a scaled-back offer to help poor nations combat global warming on Thursday as some nations expressed gloom about prospects of a new U.N. climate deal in Copenhagen in December.

Many experts said a summit of world leaders at U.N. headquarters on September 22 was a chance to end deadlock between rich and poor on aid and on sharing out the burden of curbs on greenhouse gases between rich and poor.

The United States said talks on the new U.N. climate treaty were “difficult” and Britain said a deal “hangs in the balance.”

“Now we must break the impasse in the Copenhagen negotiations,” EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told reporters after the EU outlined an offer of between two and 15 billion euros a year by 2020 to help the poor.

It was short of a previous indication that the EU could pay up to 24 billion euros a year of a total annual bill estimated at 100 billion euros to help developing nations curb industrial emissions and adapt to changes such as droughts or floods.

“The EU is trying to get away with leaving a tip rather than paying its share of the bill to protect the planet’s climate,” Greenpeace campaigners Joris den Blanken said.

And several nations expressed worries about the talks meant to help avert more heatwaves, wildfires, sandstorms or rising sea levels.

In Washington, President Barack Obama’s top climate change negotiator Todd Stern said the U.S. Senate needed quickly to pass a domestic climate bill if the talks were to succeed.

“Time is short and the (U.N.) negotiations have still too often foundered as a result of the … developed/developing country divide,” Stern told a House panel.

“Let me say bluntly that the tenor of negotiations in the formal U.N. track has been difficult,” he said.

SOUTH KOREA

“It is hard to be optimistic about the (Copenhagen) meeting,” South Korean Environment Minister Maanee Lee told the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit. He said Seoul hoped to play a “bridging role” between rich and poor.

South Africa, one of the developing nations most willing to rein in its rising emissions, said that it would reject any carbon targets that hurt its coal-dependent economy.

“We are committed to taking responsible action to reduce our emissions but we are not ready to agree to any targets that would undermine our growth trajectory,” cabinet spokesman Themba Maseko told reporters.

Rich nations want developing nations led by China and India to start reining in the growth of their emissions by 2020. The poor say that the rich must lead the way, despite recession.

In Copenhagen, foreign ministers of Britain, France, Denmark, Sweden and Finland agreed to intensify “green diplomacy” to try to salvage a deal in December.

“We are here because the Copenhagen agreement hangs in the balance,” Foreign Secretary David Miliband said. “We are now entering the hot phase of the campaign.”

In one more optimistic sign, Danish Climate Minister Connie Hedegaard said: “There will be an agreement in Copenhagen.

“I think there will be many crises, many problems and challenges along the way, but I refuse to believe that the world’s leaders will take on the responsibility of not acting when everybody can see there is a need to do so,” she said.

Many hopes are pinned on a September 22 summit organised by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to revive U.N. climate talks that have become bogged down in recent months.

“Now the onus is on heads of government,” Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Programme, told the Reuters summit.

He said the September 22 talks were a chance to show world leaders that “there is a high risk that a deal will not emerge from Copenhagen” unless they get more involved.

In a sign of domestic action by a developed nation, French President Nicolas Sarkozy launched plans for a carbon tax of 17 euros (15 pounds) per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions to encourage industry and households to cut energy consumption.

(Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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