EU says successful in climate change goals as U.N. talks start

BONN, Germany Wed Jun 4, 2014 11:50am IST

The coal power plant of German utility RWE Power is reflected in a puddle near the western town of Neurath February 28, 2014. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender/Files

The coal power plant of German utility RWE Power is reflected in a puddle near the western town of Neurath February 28, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Ina Fassbender/Files

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BONN, Germany (Reuters) - The European Union touted its success in cutting greenhouse gases at U.N. talks on climate change on Wednesday, where a U.S. plan to cut power plant emissions has lifted hopes for a global deal in 2015.

An adviser to the Chinese government also suggested on Tuesday that Beijing could cap its soaring emissions in coming years. That would be a big step for the world's top emitter, which says it needs to burn coal to spur growth.

Signs of action by leading economies may help ministers and officials from about 170 nations in Bonn for the June 4-15 talks to try to work out details of a global deal to fight climate change due to be agreed at a Paris summit in late 2015.

"The EU will substantially over-achieve" its targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, Connie Hedegaard, the EU Climate Commissioner, said in a statement.

EU cuts by 2020 would be 24.5 percent below 1990 levels, deeper than a minimum 20 percent target, and give a total over-achievement of 5.5 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases, she said in a statement based on data issued last month.

The Commission said there was still a "wide gap" between world promises to cut emissions and far deeper cuts needed to keep temperatures below a ceiling agreed by almost 200 nations to avert heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

Most efforts at the U.N. talks focus on actions beyond 2020 but "it is also crucial to step up action before 2020", Hedegaard said.

Emissions fell by 19 percent between 1990 and 2012, close to the 2020 target, while the EU economy expanded by 44 percent. Factors including weak growth have also cut EU emissions.

After delays, the bloc will adopt targets for the period beyond 2020 by October 2014.

On Monday, the United States said the U.S. power sector would have to cut carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels as part of regulations that will be the centrepiece of President Barack Obama's climate change strategy.

The Environmental Protection Agency's plan is one of the most significant environmental rules proposed by the United States, and could transform the power sector, which relies on coal for nearly 38 percent of electricity.

Christiana Figures, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat in Bonn, welcomed Obama's plan as "a good signal to all nations" trying to negotiate a deal on global warming.

Obama will be attending a summit of the Group of Seven in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday. Obama's national goal for 2020 is to cut emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels, equivalent to 3.5 percent below 1990 levels.

Ahead of the Bonn talks, developing countries urged far more action by industrialised nations, saying the poor were most vulnerable to water and food shortages. They say that cuts so far by the rich are inadequate.

"If we don’t act urgently the world’s poorest will suffer," the 48-member Least Developed Nations group said in a statement.

"Immediate action is absolutely critical to island nations," echoed Marlene Moses, chair of the 44-nation alliance of small island states.

(Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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