UN climate talks could fail, EU ministers warn

European ministers warned that December’s landmark UN climate talks could fail, as the EU Commission urged rich nations Thursday to stump up tens of billions of euros to help the developing world combat global warming.

“The Copenhagen deal is hanging in the balance,” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told reporters.

“It’s a real danger that the world will not come together in the way that is necessary to agree on an ambitious and comprehensive deal in December,” warned Miliband, in Denmark to meet with his Danish, Finnish, French and Swedish counterparts on the issue.

The December 7-18 talks in Copenhagen, under the 192-nation UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), aim to craft a post-2012 pact for curbing the heat-trapping gases that drive perilous global warming.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told AFP that Copenhagen would be judged as a success if there is the willingness from rich countries to help poorer ones deal with the effects of global warming.

“It is the richest who must share most of the burden with developing countries,” Kouchner said.

His comments came on the day that French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced plans to impose a new carbon tax next year on oil, gas and coal despite polls showing strong opposition among the public.

Poorer countries such as India say over-ambitious targets for cutting greenhouse gases will hamper economic growth and that richer countries should offer greater emissions cuts of their own.

Developed nations acknowledge the need to help out their poor neighbours but are unwilling to write any blank cheques.

The European Commission in Brussels proposed that richer nations provide tens of billions of euros in global aid annually for poor nations to fight global warming.

“With less than 90 days before Copenhagen we need to make serious progress in these negotiations,” said EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso.

The sums involved “will only get higher if we delay,” he cautioned.

The proposals will serve as a basis for discussions in October when EU nations will seek a common position to take to Copenhagen.

In total, the EU estimated that developing countries will need to find around 100 billion euros (145 billion dollars) per year to tackle climate change by 2020.

Breaking down the 100-billion-euro figure, the commission foresees that domestic and private financing in the developing countries themselves should provide 20-40 percent of the total.

Another 40 percent should be found via an international carbon market, which should create an increasingly financial flow to developing countries.

Each country’s contribution would be assessed according to a scale of emissions levels and ability to pay.

The EU would be expected to provide anything in a range from two to 15 billion euros, according to the commission.

A diplomatic source said the EU wants to see the equivalent of 12 billion euros per year coming from the United States.

Notably the commission stressed that the rest of the aid should come from “industrialised nations and economically more advanced developing countries,” a phrase which brings China into the funding equation.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said the “balanced” proposals were needed to “break the impasse in the Copenhagen negotiations.”

Brussels sees itself at the forefront of that battle against climate change. The 27 EU nations have already agreed to cut greenhouse gases emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

They have also said they will increase that figure to 30 percent if there is international agreement to do the same.

The commission proposed exempting the poorest Least Developed Countries from any commitment to put forward low-carbon emissions plans.

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