ANALYSIS-UN talks' faltering pace makes it harder for EU to keep climate lead

LONDON/BRUSSELS Tue Nov 26, 2013 4:50pm GMT

LONDON/BRUSSELS Nov 26 (Reuters) - A weak deal at U.N. climate talks in Warsaw underlines how hard it will be for EU leaders to forge an agreement on 2030 environment and energy goals early next year as some governments and businesses seek to place economics first.

EU envoys, who have long sought to lead the climate debate, hoped to persuade all countries to propose emission commitments in 2014 in the run-up to signing a global pact to tackle climate change in Paris in December 2015.

But the talks ended on Saturday with nothing more than a recommendation that parties announce plans for contributions on post-2020 emissions "by the first quarter of 2015 for those in a position to do so".

The European Union should be the first major bloc to outline energy and environmental targets for 2030.

Its executive, the European Commission, will unveil a discussion paper on EU-wide 2030 goals on Jan. 21, Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said at a conference in Brussels on Tuesday.

Compared with 2020 targets including a 20 percent cut in emissions targets, the Commission has been analysing the impact for 2030 of EU emission cuts of 35 percent, 40 percent and 45 percent under 1990 levels, EU sources have said.

The Commission's proposed climate and energy policy will be debated by the bloc's leaders at a summit in March.

Ahead of that, nations including coal-dependent Poland have already expressed concern about the burden placed on industry if they act when other countries do not, arguing they will be at a competitive disadvantage.

The widening gap between Poland and nations such as Britain and France, which have called for what they see as ambitious carbon cuts, complicates the chances of securing EU-wide agreement.

The Warsaw talks "just underlined the difficulty ... There is increasing divergence in the level of ambition at EU level", said Felix Matthes, a researcher at Germany's Oeko-Institute.

BusinessEurope, the 28-country bloc's main business body, warned EU leaders against putting the 2030 target into law before other nations set their goals.

"BusinessEurope is concerned that the final (Warsaw) text reflects the reluctance of some of the parties to making strong commitments to a global deal," Markus Beyrer, the group's director general, said in a statement.

Ahead of the Warsaw negotiations, 13 European environment ministers said ambitious 2030 goals would not result in higher energy costs and could benefit economic growth by exporting low-carbon technologies such as renewables.

But even those ministers differ on detail, with Britain wanting one carbon-cutting target, while Denmark favours extending all three 2020 targets on carbon, renewable energy and energy savings.

"It would be a very big mistake if because Europe is still in crisis, we shy away from where we have created this front-runner position, which has the potential of creating a lot of export possibilities and job possibilities," Hedegaard said.

POWER PLAY

Europe's power companies emit around a quarter of the EU's carbon dioxide and are eager for the EU to agree a binding 2030 emission target that gives them the regulatory certainty to invest hundreds of billions of euros in plants that will supply electricity for several decades.

Jesse Scott, a policy officer at power company association Eurelectric, said the Warsaw agreement would help push the EU towards an internal deal by setting a clear timetable for when all countries should put forward offers.

She said a September 2014 high-level meeting called by U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon would be key in piling pressure on leaders to formulate their positions in time.

"It will be very difficult for any head of government to turn up to that meeting and not have a position."

Wendell Trio of green group coalition CAN Europe called on France, as the host of the Paris 2015 climate summit, to join with Britain and the incoming German government to lead the push for a strong EU deal in March. (Reporting by Ben Garside and Barbara Lewis; Editing by Dale Hudson)