UN climate talks should stick with 2 degree goal-EU negotiator

Nina Chestney

* 2 degree limit should avoid worst climate change

* Potential political changes in U.S., China hinder progress

* Talks in Qatar could help convince Middle East oil giants

LONDON, Sept 11 (Reuters) - United Nations' climate talks

should continue pushing for more ambitious action to ensure

global warming is kept under 2 degrees, an EU climate negotiator

said on Tuesday, a month after the United States was accused of

backtracking on the goal.

Almost 200 nations agreed in 2010 to limit rising

temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above

pre-industrial times to avoid dangerous impacts from climate

change like floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

To slow the pace of global warming, last year's U.N.

climate talks in South Africa agreed to develop a new legally

binding global climate deal by 2015 which would come into force

no later than 2020.

However, experts have warned that the chance of limiting

global temperature rise to below 2 degrees is getting smaller as

global greenhouse gas emissions rise due to burning fossil


"It is very clear that we should push in the negotiations

that the (2 degree goal) is not enough. The reason we are not

doing enough is due to the political situation in some parts of

the world," Peter Betts, the UK's director of international

climate change and senior EU climate negotiator, told an

all-party climate change group at the UK Parliament.

Last month, the United States was criticised for saying it

supported a more flexible approach to a new climate deal - which

might not necessarily guarantee the 2 degree limit was met - but

it later added that flexibility would give the world a better

chance to agree on a new deal.

Several countries, including some of the most vulnerable to

climate change, have long said the 2 degree threshold is not

enough and a 1.5 degree limit would be safer.


Emissions of the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide rose 3.1

percent in 2011 to a record high. China was the world's top

emitter, followed by the United States.

"The 2 degree goal is sensitive for China who needs more

than anyone else to achieve that goal, but they would say

privately they are not sure how to do that," Betts said.

Countries will meet in Doha, Qatar, at the end of November

for two weeks of talks to continue work on a new climate treaty.

A week of interim talks in Bangkok ended last week, with limited

progress on the main stumbling blocks.

Uncertainty about changes in political leadership in the

United States and China are making it unlikely that the most

difficult climate decisions will be made this year.

"The challenging economic environment in the past couple of

years has been a feeding ground for climate sceptics looking for

excuses not to go down the low-carbon route," said UK energy and

climate minister Greg Barker.

Holding this year's U.N. climate summit in Middle Eastern

oil producer Qatar may be "a bit bizarre" but could help to

convince other Middle Eastern oil giants of the benefits of

moving to a low-carbon economy, he added.

"Integrating this agenda with the mainstream oil and gas

economy, as we will be dependent on fossil fuels for many many

years to come, is sensible. I see Doha is an opportunity to

bring in countries who that have previously been antagonistic to

our agenda...particularly Saudi Arabia," Barker said.

Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, has repeatedly

been accused of blocking progress at past U.N. climate talks.

However, it announced plans in May to potentially build up

to 41,000 MW of solar power plants within two decades at an

estimated cost of over $100 billion.

"They do appreciate there are elements of this low-carbon

agenda they can sign up to and we need to find ways of bringing

people in," Barker said.