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Russia steps up pledge for climate action

Russia steps up pledge for climate action

* Russia to cut 22-25 percent versus 1990

* Move nevertheless represents rise from now

* Brazil seeks pressure China, U.S. on climate action

By Simon Johnson and Oleg Shchedrov

STOCKHOLM, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Russia toughened its plans to curb harmful greenhouse gas emissions on Wednesday in a rare encouraging development before United Nations climate talks next month.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said President Dmitry Medvedev had promised Russia would reduce emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. Russia had previously said it would cut emissions by 10-15 percent.

The deepening cut from a 1990 baseline nevertheless puts Russian emissions on an upward trajectory from now. But participants in an EU-Russia summit latched on to the pledge as a positive development before Dec. 7-18 climate talks in Copenhagen. Russia lags far behind top emitters the United States and China, but its attitude to the talks carries weight.

"I very much welcome the signal from President Medvedev today of their proposed emissions reduction target of 25 percent. This is indeed very encouraging," Barroso told a news conference after a European Union-Russia summit in Sweden.

Vladimir Chizhov, Russia's ambassador to the EU, told reporters Medvedev had mentioned a figure of 22-25 percent at the talks. Russia is the world's number three greenhouse gas emitter.

The new goal will still allow a rise from current levels. Russia's emissions, which have plunged since the collapse of the Soviet Union's inefficient smokestack industries, were 34 percent below 1990 levels in 2007.

"Russian emissions should at least be kept 35 percent below 1990 levels in 2020," said Olga Senova of the Russian Socio-Ecological Union, a network of environmental groups.

And Lars Haltbrekken, chairman of Friends of the Earth Norway, said 25 percent should be an "absolute minimum".

Expectations for a deal in Copenhagen have slipped to a "political agreement", covering core issues such as cuts in emissions by developed nations and aid to the poor. Time has run out to achieve a legally binding text with U.S. legislation bogged down and China reluctant to commit.

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