Europe, Asia Agree Climate Pact Deadline

Yang Jiechi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, right, hugs German Minister for Foreign Affairs, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, left, during a ASEM (Asia-Europe) meeting in Hamburg, Germany, Tuesday, May 29, 2007.
AP Photo/Michael Sohn
European and Asian foreign ministers agreed to set a 2009 deadline to complete negotiations on a new international climate change pact to limit greenhouse gases, diplomats said Tuesday.

Under the agreement, which came during two-day talks in Hamburg, Germany, Asian nations — including China and India — will not have to adhere to binding targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Instead, ministers outlined the responsibilities of richer and poorer nations in combating climate change, the diplomats said on condition of anonymity.

The meeting of the 40-some ministers, chaired by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, also agreed on better coordinating on promoting more sustainable use of energy and on developing more environmentally friendly renewable energy sources, the diplomats said.

China and India balked at EU attempts to get them to commit to carbon dioxide emissions cuts after the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012.

Diplomats said setting the 2009 deadline goal to reach a new emissions cutting agreement was needed to avoid a lapse in cuts after the Kyoto Protocol expires.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said the EU should not expect developing countries like China or India to share the same burden of cuts as richer nations.

He said China "was not to blame for the problem" of climate change, but said his country had taken measures to reduce its emissions.

Germany, which holds the EU presidency, is keen to convince reluctant Asian nations to sign up to new emissions cuts. The 27-nation bloc is eager to get China and other major polluters on board a new climate change pact to replace Kyoto. Negotiations on the new post-Kyoto pact are to start in December in Bali, Indonesia.

Japanese officials have also expressed reservations about setting specific targets in the early stages of negotiations for fear of discouraging major emitters — such as the United States, China and India — from participating.

Tokyo has said the new pact should be flexible, strike a balance between environmental protection and economic growth, and promote new green technologies.

China has called on the EU to share more green technologies with developing nations to speed up moves for economies to become more environmentally friendly.

The bloc however, said it was not keen to allow more technology transfers to China unless Beijing moves to give more market access for European goods and services.

However, with Asia's energy demand soaring Europe remains eager to promote renewable energies and energy efficient technologies to cut overall consumption and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The Europeans also need carbon credits from investments in clean energy projects in developing countries to meet their commitments under the Kyoto treaty.

The Hamburg talks were seen as an attempt by the EU to get Asian countries on side as a way of persuading the United States to come on board.

The U.S. refused to ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol limiting emissions because developing countries were not included. Rising economic giants, China and India, are exempt, and the treaty says nothing about post-2012 cuts.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is hoping to make progress on persuading the U.S. and others at the June 6-8 G-8 summit in Heiligendamm, but preliminary meetings including an EU-US summit in Washington have not offered promising results.

  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.