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European Leaders Home In on Global Warming Policy

The European Commission has called on the bloc to collectively earmark about $3 billion yearly in assistance for developing countries to cope with climate change.

A creation by French artist Francois Barge 'Message de glace' (Ice Message), made of three 400 kg ice cubes, to denounce global warming on the eve of the December 7-18 UN climate conference in Copenhagen, 06 Dec 2009
A creation by French artist Francois Barge 'Message de glace' (Ice Message), made of three 400 kg ice cubes, to denounce global warming on the eve of the December 7-18 UN climate conference in Copenhagen, 06 Dec 2009

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Lisa Bryant

As international negotiators continue climate change talks in Copenhagen, they are watching another European capital, Brussels, where European leaders are meeting Thursday and Friday to firm up their global warming policy.

The year-end summit of European Union leaders is expected to tackle a number of issues, including international banking supervision and Afghanistan. But climate change is expected to top the agenda.

European heads of state are expected to agree on a dollar amount for short-term aid for developing countries to cope with climate change. The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, has called on the bloc to collectively earmark about $3 billion yearly in assistance, between 2010 and 2012. So far, Britain and Sweden have announced short-term pledges, which are voluntary. Most members have not.

Jason Anderson, head of EU climate and energy policy at the environment group WWF, says it is important the pledges amount to new money - rather than simply reshuffling existing aid. And, he says, Europe must agree on long-term aid to poor nations.

"In terms of the long term, I think they need to acknowledge the scale and be willing to put in a more specific offer for Europe's fair share of that scale, recognizing there is negotiation here, so it doesn't have to be a final fixed figure on the table, but it has to be consistent with the overall scale," he said.

So far, EU leaders have agreed only that a general, global figure of $150 billion in aid is needed, but they have not specified their own share of that sum.

Environmental groups are also backing Britain's call for the EU to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2020, instead of their agreed 20 percent.

"There have been a number of studies showing that Europe moving to 30 percent would actually be an economic gain for Europe. And that includes if other countries don't take a gain at the same level, although they have to join later," said Jason Anderson. "The reason for that is that every time you cut, you're putting into place policies that use less energy, energy costs money and, in fact, you're saving money."

But business leaders, along with EU members like Poland and Italy, strongly oppose deeper cuts, arguing they will hurt European economies that are slowly emerging from the financial crisis.

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