EU ministers agree national climate goals ahead of U.N. talks

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – EU environment ministers agreed national emissions-reduction targets and forest management rules on Friday in a push to show the bloc is delivering on its climate goals ahead of United Nations talks next month to fight global warming.

The European Union, the world’s third-largest emitter and a key broker of the 2015 Paris climate pact to curb greenhouse gases, sees adopting the legislation as key to its credibility and influence on how the global climate rules are written.

The EU’s role in complying on behalf of the world’s developed countries has a higher profile since the administration of President Donald Trump announced this year that it will withdraw from the Paris accord.

The EU assigns member nations targets for slashing greenhouse gas emissions ranging from zero to 40 percent to achieve the bloc’s overall goal of at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Ministers voiced hope agreement on the politically sensitive targets, which will require an economic shift to low-carbon technology in the transport, farming, waste and building sectors, can help unlock tough talks on other climate files.

Hours of talks over reforms to the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), a cap-and-trade permit system to regulate industry pollution, ended without an agreement early on Friday.

However, ministers of the 28-nation bloc agreed on draft rules on how to manage forests, whose role as carbon sinks is promoted by the Paris pact among 195 nations, despite forest-rich nations Finland, Poland and Croatia contesting the proposed compromise.

“This shows that the EU takes leadership and does something rather than just talk,” Denmark’s Minister of Energy, Utilities and Climate, Lars Christian Lilleholt, told Reuters.

Environmental campaigners said the accord, which still needs to be negotiated with the European Parliament, did not go far enough to curb the worst effects of rising temperatures, blamed for causing more floods, heat waves and rising sea levels.

They criticized measures aimed at helping lower-income EU countries meet their obligations.

“The agreed position is far from adequate,” said Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, a Dutch lawmaker who will represent Parliament in talks to reach a final law. “Some EU governments would have to undertake little real efforts on the ground.”

(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel @AdeCar; additional reporting by Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen; editing by Peter Graff)

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