EU 30% CO2 cut still on offer for climate talks

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A European Union offer to deepen its 2020 emissions reduction target to 30 percent if other countries commit to similar measures will remain on the table at U.N. climate talks in South Africa this month, the EU's lead climate negotiator said.

"The question of whether the EU should relax its 30 percent conditions is politically not on the cards at this point in time," said Artur Runge-Metzger, director of the international and climate strategy directorate at the EU Commission.

"We are not going to take the 30 percent (offer) off the table in Durban," he said, referring to a U.N. summit from November 28 to December 9, which will work on a global climate deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.

EU governments have agreed to deepen the bloc's emissions cut target to 30 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels from the current 20 percent, but only if a strong global climate deal is reached, which would also bind major emitters to a similar goal.

As the Durban climate summit approaches in just a few weeks time, the EU has said the world might not be able to agree on a binding climate deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol until 2015.

Large emitters, like the United States, look unlikely to increase their ambitions soon, but the EU's offer still stands, Runge-Metzger said.

"Everyone is looking at the U.S. and whether the U.S. can also increase its level of ambition, but in Washington there is complete stalemate in terms of climate policies," Runge-Metzger said.

"This has had a knock-on effect. Other big countries like China said it has already fulfilled what it promised in Cancun and it is for the others to get involved," he added.

Developing countries, who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, have young climate policies compared with the EU and still have to implement domestic measures.

"Realistically, thinking about increasing the level of ambition will take discussion of a few years," Runge-Metzger said.

After a scientific report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is released in 2014, increased scientific knowledge about the climate might prompt more action.

"On that basis, there might be an increase in the willingness to reflect on the targets," he added.

There is also internal debate within the 27-nation bloc about a unilateral EU move to a deeper emissions target.

Earlier this year, Britain and Denmark urged the bloc to move without other heavy emitters to a deeper target but failed to gain enough support.

Some EU states were concerned about the cost of moving to a deeper target in a time of economic slowdown and about denting EU competitiveness if a unilateral move was taken.

Even though EU leaders have had to prioritize tackling the euro zone crisis in recent months, the internal debate over moving to 30 percent will continue, Runge-Metzger said.

"I think this 30 percent is a debate we are going to have again next year," Runge-Metzger said.

(Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by Jason Neely and Alison Birrane)