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Europe

Poorer Countries Press EU on Climate Goals

At a UN conference in Poland, developing countries are pressing rich nations, including the EU, for sharper cuts in emissions as negotiators struggle for progress on a climate pact that is due within a year.

A snail with an EU flag painted on her back crawl across a highway bridge with cars underneath

Some say the EU is moving to slow on emission cuts

Led by China, poorer nations at this year's main UN climate conference on Tuesday, Dec. 2, also renewed demands for industrialized countries to help them pay for clean technology.

Both issues are key sticking points at the two-week parley, where delegates from some 190 nations are to pave the way for difficult negotiations next year on a global pact against climate change.

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China, which by some calculations has overtaken the United States as the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, said industrial countries needed to act first because they have caused most of the world's pollution so far.

"They must change their lifestyle that is no longer sustainable," Chinese delegate He Jiankun told the conference. "They must take the lead in providing quantified emissions reductions."

Countries like China need "space" for rising emissions so they can develop their economies, he said.

Ambitious plan?

South Africa said the European Union's plan to cut emissions of carbon dioxide at least 20 percent over 1990 levels by 2020 was not ambitious. An EU envoy insisted it was more ambitious than any other country's.

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Bangladesh delegate Mohammed Reazuddin, speaking for the world's poorest nations, said a climate accord should include "mandatory contributions" by rich countries for the spread of clean technology. Levies could include taxes on air and sea travel, he said.

Tuesday's exchanges underscored the challenge of reaching a global deal to curb emissions of gases -- mainly carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuel -- that scientists say are trapping heat in the atmosphere and changing the planet's climate.

"The idea is how can we all work together to build a low-carbon society," said French climate envoy Brice Lalonde, whose country currently chairs the EU. "It's a huge investment program. We would like to show that this is the economic path for tomorrow."

EU split on climate protection

But China said industrialized countries should cut their emissions "at least 25 to 40 percent" from 1990 levels by 2020.

In fact, the 27-nation EU is split over its own climate protection plan. Italy and a group of ex-communist eastern European countries -- including conference host Poland -- are balking at the EU blueprint, saying its clean-energy goals would make energy too expensive.

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