EU to press for 'ambitious' emissions cuts

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The European Union is seeking more ambitious targets on greenhouse gas emissions cut and further progress towards a new climate agreement for all countries by 2015, officials said here on Wednesday ahead of the UN climate conference in Warsaw starting next week.

"The Warsaw meeting is an important step in implementing commitments made so far, finding ways to make short-term action more ambitious and preparing the 2015 agreement," said Lithuanian environment minister Valentinas Mazuronis, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

The EU's climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard also called on all countries to "prepare strong pledges for the 2015 deal and step up emissions cut over the rest of this decade."

"Everybody should understand that the Warsaw climate conference will not conclude the negotiations on the 2015 global climate deal," said Hedegaard, "But it will be a very important meeting to make progress and set the stage for Paris 2015."

In another statement from the European Commission, the 28-member bloc said it would push its global partners at the Warsaw conference, slated for Nov. 11-22, to step up emissions cut over the rest of this decade.

"While the EU and over 80 other countries have made emissions commitments up to 2020, collectively these are not yet ambitious enough to put the world on track to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius," the statement said, referring to a recent UN report which warned that current emissions cut pledges would fail to contain global warming within the two-degrees target.

"The conference should agree a process for all parties to consider how to enhance their pre-2020 emissions action in 2014," the statement added.

The EU would also prepare the ground for the adoption by 2015 of a new legally binding global climate agreement containing emissions commitments by all countries, according to the statement.

"Urgent progress is needed on the design, scope and structure of the global agreement, which is to be adopted by 2015 at the latest and to enter force in 2020," it said.

The EU has been on the forefront of global fight against climate change for decades. The bloc accounts for 11 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and its member states have pledged to implement a 20-percent emissions reduction by 2020.

The EU is also a major provider of climate finance. Last year, the EU and some of its member states pledged voluntary contributions for developing countries that amounted to 5.5 billion euros (7.4 billion dollars).

The Warsaw conference is foreseen to be a milestone in the path of striking a new global climate deal by 2015. However, observers do not expect any single big decision from the conference, while national negotiators may go through hard bargaining as they wrestle with key sticking points.

Also on Wednesday, the Commission brought forward the proposal for the ratification of the so-called Doha amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, which had been agreed at the UN climate change conference last year to establish a second commitment period with legally binding emissions commitments from 2013 to 2020.

The Commission said in another statement that the ratification would be necessary for the Doha amendment to enter into force, which requires the ratification of three quarters of the 192 parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

The EU and its member states, plus Iceland, have pledged to fulfill a 20-percent reduction from the 1990 level in their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The 20-percent reduction will be legally binding after the ratification.

The European Environment Agency said last month that the EU was already close to meeting that target, with emissions in 2012 being around 18 percent lower than in 1990.

The ratification would underline the EU's commitment to a legally binding and rules-based approach to international action on climate change, according to Hedegaard.

The proposal still needs to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU's member states. The Commission said it would expect the ratification at both EU and national levels by early 2015.

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