EU Approves UN Climate-Talks Mandate, Sidesteps Unused Rights

European Union nations approved a negotiating mandate for the next global climate summit after sidestepping differences over post-2012 curbs on excess United Nations emission rights.

Environment ministers from the 27-nation EU were unable to advance on the issue of unused UN greenhouse-gas emission rights, reiterating a March accord to seek an “ambitious level of environmental integrity.” That vagueness enabled the ministers to come up with a broader stance for world climate talks scheduled for November.

The overall agreement, reached at a 12-hour meeting today in Luxembourg, scaled back a draft proposal to make the domestic use and trading of surplus UN emission rights “strictly limited” after eastern EU nations led by Poland opposed any restrictions.

“We were not able to move beyond what was agreed in March,” Environment Minister Sophocles Aletraris of Cyprus, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, told reporters after the meeting.

Still at stake is the future of Assigned Amount Units equivalent to 3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide that European countries won’t use in the 2008-2012 Kyoto period, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That would correspond to 63 percent of the EU’s aggregate emissions in 2010. Together with excess AAUs held by non-EU nations, in particular Russia and Ukraine, the surplus may rise to 11.2 billion tons, a sum that is approximately equal to Russia’s total emissions from 2008 through 2012 and that threatens to undermine any future deal on climate change, BNEF said.

At UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa, last year, the EU agreed to set binding caps on emissions under the second Kyoto commitment period from 2013. Negotiators have yet to decide how to tackle the carry-over of surplus rights at the next global summit due to start on Nov. 26 in Doha, Qatar.

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