Climate Change  Secretary Chris Huhne

Major economies must agree to emissions cuts - Huhne

All major economies must agree to negotiate a new climate treaty before Europe signs up to new international emissions cuts.

The EU is calling on the latest UN talks in Durban, South Africa, to agree a mandate to negotiate a new, legally binding deal by 2015 covering all major economies, in return for signing up to a second period of emissions cuts under the existing Kyoto treaty.

While the bid is backed by the majority of countries at the climate talks, including some of the most vulnerable to the impacts of global warming, major players including the US and China oppose the plans.

"The EU is not about to agree to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol without real commitments by parties not otherwise bound by those agreements," said Huhne.

The EU argues that if all countries committed to the Kyoto Protocol signed up to a second set of cuts when the first phase expires at the end of 2012, it would only cover 15 per cent of global emissions - and countries responsible for the remaining 85 per cent must act.

The US has never ratified Kyoto, and it does not cover major emitters including China.

Huhne warned other countries that the EU was not going to sign up to new emissions commitments to "provide camouflage for everybody else to do nothing".

But he said there would be a "graduated" response by the EU to what other countries did, so that if there was a strong mandate to press ahead with negotiating a new, legally-binding deal, the EU would ratify a second set of commitments.

If, however, commitments fell short of that from other countries, Europe would do less, he said, admitting it would not be a case of "get there or bust".

Huhne also said countries had to follow the science on the "emissions gap" between the voluntary cuts in greenhouse gases already pledged by countries and the levels of reductions needed by 2020 to keep global temperature rises to 2C.

Addressing the emissions gap is on the table at the talks but while some countries want action, the US wants to stick with the existing voluntary pledges until 2020.

Huhne said negotiators were pushing back against the US stance and there was a clear recognition of a need to take more action to ratchet up emissions cuts to keep the world from "dangerous" climate change.

He added he did not believe it would get to the point where the rest of the world would give up on the US, which is seen as a major block on progress to a new deal, and make agreements without the superpower.

"I think the key point is if China sees its way to making that big step forward and living up to its international responsibilities I think you will get other similar commitments right the way across the key players including the US," he said.

His comments come after Jo Leinen, chairman of the European Parliament delegation at the Durban talks, called for an end to the "ping-pong" blame game between China and the US over taking action, which he said was "no longer acceptable".

He said it was important to find partners in the talks to go ahead and "not to wait for those who are not willing to do a global deal".

Ministers at the talks are also being urged to set up the "green climate fund", which will channel billions of pounds to poor countries to help them cope with the impacts of global warming and develop without polluting, and find sources of funding for it.

A key option on the table is a carbon tax on international shipping, and aid campaigners are calling on negotiators to make progress on securing funding from maritime transport to make sure the fund, if it is set up, is not an empty shell.

There were indications that Europe's demand that negotiations on a new deal should be concluded by 2015 could slip, with Huhne saying what was important was it taking effect to drive down emissions by 2020.

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