By Barbara Lewis and Robin Emmott
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - China is seeking a fair, global system to tackle climate change and is about to make a joint announcement on the environment, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said before a summit in Brussels with top European Union officials on Monday.
Expectations are high that China, the world's biggest carbon emitter, is about to submit to the United Nations a promise to cut emissions ahead of U.N. climate talks late this year in Paris.
An EU source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said China was expected to make a submission either later on Monday or early on Tuesday.
Speaking in Brussels at a conference, Li said the European Union and China must "step up their cooperation ... to establish a fair, reasonable, win-win global climate governance system."
It was significant that Li made time in his speech for the environment given the crisis in the European Union over whether Greece can stay in the euro zone, which he also addressed.
China is expected to make a joint statement with the EU later on Monday on the need to tackle climate change as one of "the greatest threats tackling humanity".
If, in addition, it uses the occasion of the Brussels meetings to announce its formal contribution to U.N. climate talks in Paris beginning on Nov. 30, that would be highly symbolic and would mean that more than half the world's emissions were covered by pledges for action.
Xie Zhenhua, China's special representative on climate change, said at a U.N. event in New York also on Monday that China would submit its Intended National Determined Contribution (INDC) "very soon".
He said China was still a developing country with many challenges, but it had an "inherent need for sustainable development".
The combined total of promises to the United Nations will not be enough to keep temperatures rising above the 2 degrees Celsius limit climate scientists say can prevent the most devastating effects of extreme weather, but is still a leap forward.
China's pledge is expected to be a promise that its emissions will peak "around 2030" and officials and analysts say it can easily achieve that.
"The INDCs should be seen as a floor not a ceiling," Marianne Fay, chief economist for climate change at the World Bank, said in Brussels. "China likes to under-promise and over-deliver."
(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York, editing by William Hardy)