World Powers to Tackle Climate Amid Skepticism

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Agence France Presse

World Powers to Tackle Climate Amid Skepticism

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"I think that the next two years will be a disappointing time in terms of actions and that we will have to use that time to build a powerful movement to get real action the next time there will be a political window that opens up," said Bill McKibben. (REUTERS/Bob Strong/Files)

NEW YORK - The 17 nations responsible for 80 percent of carbon emissions blamed for global warming will seek to unblock stalled climate negotiations this week but analysts expect little progress.

The two-day Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate kicks off Monday and will include top government envoys, including US special envoy for climate change Todd Stern.

US President Barack Obama launched the meetings to facilitate climate talks in the wake of last year's disappointing United Nations conference in Copenhagen.

The successor conference to the Copenhagen meet is set for this November in Cancun, Mexico.

"I don't think anyone is expecting any major announcement," said Michael Levi, an analyst with the Council on Foreign Relations.

"This is a working meeting... a lot of important players are at the same place at the same time" during the United Nations General Assembly, he told AFP.

Levi said the envoys would not seek to resolve the fierce debate over climate change but rather find ways to better define the issues, acknowledging the Cancun meeting would likely be another stalemate.

"No one is going to crack a big deal at this," he added.

Environmentalist Bill McKibben, co-founder of the environmental group 350.org, said the US Congress's failure to pass a law to combat climate change made it "very difficult" to clinch a strong agreement in Cancun.

"I think that the next two years will be a disappointing time in terms of actions and that we will have to use that time to build a powerful movement to get real action the next time there will be a political window that opens up," he added.

Levi warned that a period of uncertainty could follow the November mid-term legislative elections in which Republicans are poised to retake control of the House of Representatives from Obama's fellow Democrats and to increase their numbers in the Senate.

Last June, the House approved a bill that would launch the country's first nationwide "cap-and-trade" system that restricts carbon emissions blamed for global warming and allows trading in credits.

The Senate has yet to offer companion legislation, amid opposition from Republicans and Democrats from states dependent on the coal and hydrocarbon industries.

"Real change contradicts the business model of the fossil fuel industry," McKibben said, saying the industry was too powerful for Congress to effectively tackle reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. He urged more global action to create a "mass movement" in support of cutting emissions.

In October 2009, his 350.org organized a major day of political action, with 5,245 protests and other events across 181 countries.

Environment ministers from 45 countries are also scheduled to meet in Geneva in September at the invitation of the Swiss and Mexican governments.

And negotiators from the 194 signatories to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change are to meet in Tianjin, China for a final preparatory round of talks in October.

Next week's New York talks will include representatives from Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, and the United States.

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