French President Nicolas Sarkozy failed to end deadlock with ex-communist EU states on a climate package on Saturday but predicted a deal would be reached by a summit on Thursday and Friday.
“Things are moving in a good way ... I am convinced we will arrive at a positive conclusion,” Sarkozy, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said after meeting Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and eight other east European leaders.
Poland, which relies on high-polluting coal for more than 90 percent of its electricity, has threatened to veto an EU plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 unless Warsaw wins fossil fuel concessions.
“There is still a lot of work ahead of us” before the summit, Tusk said after the talks in the Polish port of Gdansk.
Poland argues it needs until 2020 to curb carbon emissions, for example by using more efficient boilers and carbon-scrubbing equipment and possibly building its first nuclear plant.
Tusk said Sarkozy and the EU Commission agreed to extend a period limiting mandatory purchases of emissions permits for east European coal plants, in an offer that would need the backing of all EU leaders.
Tusk hinted at a willingness to compromise at the summit.
“At the very end, maybe at the very last minute, we may decide this is a solution we may accept,” Tusk said.
Poorer east European states say tough caps on carbon emissions will harm their economies at a time of global financial crisis, preventing them from catching up with wealthy western Europe.
Sarkozy saw reasons for optimism after the meeting leaders of Bulgaria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.
“It’s a very strong political signal that despite the financial crisis no state wanted to change the deadline or the objectives” of cutting emissions by a fifth, he said.
Meanwhile, hopes to reach agreement at another UN climate conference in Poznan, Poland, on protecting the world’s forests were fading.
The conference of nearly 190 countries was working on a plan to compensate countries to stop logging and converting forests to farmland, actions that were clearing 13 million hectares of forests a year up to 2005.
Negotiators had hoped a deal on forests would be one of the few concrete achievements of the two-week conference, which is preparing a global warming treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012. The new pact is due to be complete next December.
However, environmentalists said the talks were deadlocked in a committee.
Nine environmental groups submitted a statement to delegates urging them to wrap up the technical issues of an accord before the talks end on Friday, saying most of the hard work was done three months ago at the last negotiating session in Ghana.