China, the EU and 23 other Asian nations have signed a declaration pledging to tackle climate change within the framework of UN-led negotiations that will wrap up at a major summit in Copenhagen in December 2009.
"We call upon the international community to consider the most ambitious set of targets" for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, reads a joint declaration signed in Beijing over the weekend (24-25 October) by the 45 nations that take part in regular summits organised under the banner of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).
The UN process under the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol should be the channels used for agreeing any global climate deal, while "ASEM partners share a mutual commitment to finding a long-term multilateral solution to climate change," the declaration says.
While the declaration does not include any specific percentage-based commitments to slashing GHGs, the wording and timing of the text are significant with respect to the next major UN climate change conference scheduled for 1-12 December in Poznan, Poland.
Marking the mid-way point in the most recent round of global climate change talks, launched in Bali in December 2007 and set to conclude in Copenhagen in December 2009, Poznan will signal the start of more detailed talks on how to implement "common but differentiated responsibilities" for tackling climate change between developed and developing states.
"Developed countries should continue to show strong leadership and take measurable, reportable and verifiable nationally appropriate mitigation commitments" while transferring money and technology to poorer states struggling to emerge from poverty while limiting their GHG emissions, the text says.
Differing responsibilities between rich and poor countries are also an issue inside the EU, where Italy and a number of new member states, led by Poland, are raising concerns that the bloc's ambitions to slash GHG emissions by 20% by 2020 will be too costly for their economies. EU heavy industry, meanwhile, is seeking exemptions from obligations to purchase emissions permits on the grounds that paying too much to emit CO2 could undermine their gobal competitiveness.
Any deal struck within the EU is thus expected to have significant ramifications on global climate talks, since the treatment of poorer member states and of the bloc's energy intensive sector will impact the EU's negotiating mandate and may set a precedent for a global GHG reduction framework.