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World Leaders Back Delay to Final Climate Deal

Caren Bohan

Barack Obama speaks with Thailand prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. Asia-Pacific leaders buried hopes a key UN meeting next month would forge a binding pact to combat climate change, saying talks would drag on well past the Copenhagen meeting. (Photograph: Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images)

SINGAPORE - U.S. President Barack Obama and other world
leaders on Sunday rallied around plans to avert a failure at next
month's climate summit in Copenhagen that would delay legally binding
agreements until 2010 or even later.

"Given the time factor and the situation of individual countries we
must, in the coming weeks, focus on what is possible and not let
ourselves be distracted by what is not possible," Danish Prime Minister
Lars Lokke Rasmussen told the leaders.

"The Copenhagen Agreement should finally mandate continued legal
negotiations and set a deadline for their conclusion," said the
Copenhagen talks host, who flew into Singapore overnight to lay out his
proposal over breakfast at an Asia-Pacific summit.

Rasmussen's two-step plan would pave the way for a political accord
at the December 7-18 talks, followed by tortuous haggling over legally
binding commitments on targets, finance and technology transfer on a
slower track, though still with a deadline.

In particular, it would give breathing space for the U.S. Senate to
pass carbon-capping legislation, allowing the Obama administration to
bring a 2020 target and financing pledges to the table at a major U.N.
climate meeting in Bonn in mid-2010.

Analysts say it needs to pass through the Senate early next year to
avoid becoming pushed aside in the run-up to mid-term elections.

"There was an assessment by the leaders that it was unrealistic to
expect a full, internationally legally binding agreement to be
negotiated between now and when Copenhagen starts in 22 days," senior
U.S. negotiator Michael Froman told reporters after the meeting, which
was attended by leaders of the United States, China, Japan, Russia,
Mexico, Australia and Indonesia.

"We believe it is better to have something good than to have nothing at all," Chilean Foreign Minister Mariano Fernandez said.


Copenhagen was seen as the last chance for countries to agree on a
successor to the Kyoto Protocol and put in place painful measures
needed to fight a rise in temperatures that would bring more rising sea
levels, floods and droughts.

The aim of the summit is to set ambitious targets for cutting
greenhouse gases, but also to raise funds to help poor countries tackle
global warming.

However, negotiations have been bogged down, with developing nations
accusing the rich world of failing to set themselves deep enough 2020
goals for curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

"Leaders ... were clear in their view that the current officials-led
process is running into all sorts of difficulties, and therefore it is
time for leaders, politically, to step in," Australian Prime Minister
Kevin Rudd told reporters after the meeting with Rasmussen.

It was not clear if China, now the world's biggest carbons emitter, had lined up behind the two-stage proposal in Singapore.


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Chinese President Hu Jintao instead focussed his remarks at the
breakfast meeting on the need to establish a funding mechanism for rich
nations to provide financial support to developing countries to fight
climate change.

He was echoed by Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who said that if
an agreement could be reached on a mechanism for global financing at
Copenhagen it would be "much easier to achieve clear and pragmatic

Their comments came a day after the presidents of France and Brazil,
in a joint document, called for "substantial" financial help from
richer countries to help them tackle emissions.


Despite the talk in Singapore of urgent action on climate change, a
statement issued after the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
(APEC) summit dropped an earlier draft's reference to halving
greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Environmental lobby group WWF voiced disappointment.

"At APEC, there was far too much talk about delay, and what won't be
accomplished in Copenhagen," spokesperson Diane McFadzien said in a
statement. "This does not look like a smart strategy to win the fight
against climate change."

"In Copenhagen, governments need to create a legally binding
framework with an amended Kyoto Protocol and a new Copenhagen Protocol.
Legally binding is the only thing that will do if we want to see real
action to save the planet."

Rasmussen said a two-step approach would not mean a "partial" agreement in Copenhagen and insisted that it would be binding.

However, analysts said a new deadline could slip if Washington's
political will to agree on emissions targets and carbon cap-and-trade
fades, which would be a particular risk if the U.S. economic recovery

There is also a risk of growing frustration from developing
countries which accuse rich nations of not doing enough to fight
climate or help poorer states adapt to its impacts.

(Additional reporting by David Fogarty, Oleg Shchedrov, Yoo Choonsik
and Lucy Hornby; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Neil Chatterjee)


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