BRUSSELS — The EU's self-proclaimed position as global leader in the fight against climate change was rocked Thursday by the bloc's failure to agree on how much they are willing to pay as a continent to help poor countries cope with and fight global warming.
"You will always find between 27 sovereign nation states that there are differences," Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt told reporters after pledges fell well short of the 6.6 billion euros ($9.72 billion) leaders were aiming for.
He said officials would continue to lobby through the night for more money and announce the figure Friday at the close of the two-day summit.
Seventeen of the EU's 27 members came up with offers of money totaling about 5.4 billion euros ($7.95 billion) over the next three years, according to a French official. That money would go toward $10 billion a year in fast-track funds for developing countries that negotiators at Copenhagen climate talks are trying to drum up.
"We are still working on putting together what the European countries on a voluntary basis are able to do," Reinfeldt said Thursday night. "We will work though the night to see that we get all the resources in place."
The EU leaders had hoped that by putting a firm figure on the table they would incite other rich economies to work harder toward a new global climate pact at negotiations under way in Copenhagen.
Instead, activists accused them of ceding their leadership role.
"Now other countries like Japan and Norway are being more ambitious and it looks like the current EU leadership is getting cold feet," said Greenpeace EU climate policy director Joris den Blanken. "Indecision from the EU is not what brought the U.S. to the negotiating table and is certainly not what will clinch the deal in Copenhagen."
Some EU nations — mostly in the bloc's east — that are still struggling to recover from the devastating fallout of the global financial meltdown. That has made them reluctant to participate in costly emissions cuts or to offer help for a fund intended to help developing nations cope with the effects of global warming and start curbing emissions before a new climate treaty being negotiated in Copenhagen comes into force in 2012.
But it wasn't only the poor nations dragging their feet. France, Italy and Germany also were waiting until Friday to announce their pledges.
Leaders of richer EU nations want to set an example to spur other wealthy countries — notably the United States — into helping the developing world more, especially if they aren't making large emissions cuts. The U.S. is promising a 3 percent reduction from 1990 levels.
"We can't solve the climate problem ourselves," Reinfeldt said. "We need to have a global answer to this global problem."
Two years ago, the EU was ahead of the pack when it pledged to cut 20 percent of emissions from 1990 levels by 2020 and to increase that to 30 percent if other big polluters made similar promises. Japan and Russia have now outpaced Europe with 25 percent cuts.
For the climate fund, Britain has announced it will contribute $1.3 billion over three years, and Sweden will give euro800 million ($1.2 billion). The Dutch say they will contribute euro300 million ($442 million) over three years, and the Belgians euro150 million ($221 million). A Danish diplomat said Denmark would contribute euro160 million ($233 million).
Thursday's failure came despite the two-day summit being the first since EU-wide reform known as the Lisbon Treaty entered force, bringing new rules to accelerate decision-making.
On Friday, after resuming the climate fund negotiations, they will discuss the West's nuclear standoff with Iran and Tehran's violent suppression of pro-democracy protests.
EU leaders are expected to say they would support further U.N. sanctions against Iran unless Tehran starts cooperating over its nuclear program.
Before the summit got under way, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed on the need for higher taxes on bankers' bonuses to compensate from some of the damage risky banking has caused to the global economy.