Climate talks 'will show way forward', says Obama

President Barack Obama has declared that despite gloomy predictions next month’s major climate conference will lead to immediate action and “rally the world” toward a solution on global warming.

Mr Obama and Chinese president Hu Jintao talked of a joint desire to tackle climate change, but failed to publicly address the root problems that could unravel a deal at the 192-nation conference in Copenhagen: how much each country can contribute to curb greenhouse gases and how the world will pay the billions needed to fight rising temperatures.

Hu said nations would do their part “consistent with our respective capabilities,” a reference to the now widely accepted view that developing nations – even energy guzzlers like China, India and Brazil – should be required only to set goals for reining in greenhouse-gas emissions, not accept absolute targets for reducing emissions like the industrialised countries.

But the symbolism of the world’s two largest polluters pledging no half-measures in any agreement from the conference took the sting out of the admission by Mr Obama and other leaders over the weekend that Copenhagen would be only a stopping rather than the solution envisioned two years ago when negotiations for a new climate treaty began.

Obama administration officials acknowledge that the Copenhagen talks are not expected to produce a final legal agreement, putting that off until next year. The administration sought to make clear that Mr Obama expects the talks to produce something more than “an agreement to have an agreement” at a future date.

Using language that went further than before, Mr Obama said the aim of the summit “is not a partial accord or a political declaration, but rather an accord that covers all of the issues in the negotiations, and one that has immediate operational effect.”

He said an all-encompassing agreement “would be an important step forward in the effort to rally the world around a solution to our climate challenge.”

Mr Obama did not elaborate. But the United Nations and the European Union have called for a fund of at least 10 billion dollars annually in the next three years to help poor countries draw up plans for moving to low-carbon economies, slow deforestation and take emergency steps against the effects of climate change.

The agreement is meant to succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which required 37 industrial countries to cut emissions an average 5% below 1990 levels by 2012, but which made no demands on rapidly growing economies like China’s.

The Copenhagen agreement would require developing countries to curb their emissions growth, but it was unclear how their plans would be enshrined in the accord and what would happen if their promises were broken.

White House aides said on Sunday that a fully binding legal agreement would be put off until a December 2010 meeting in Mexico City, even though the new agreement must be ratified and in force when the Kyoto pact expires at the end of 2012.

Together the US and China emit 40% of the world’s greenhouse gases, and a new study said the recent growth of emissions during the economic downturn was almost entirely driven by China.

Worldwide carbon emissions jumped 2% last year, said the study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, adding urgency to efforts to rein in pollution that traps the Earth’s heat.

In a joint statement, Mr Obama and Hu said Copenhagen should produce an agreement that would “include emission reduction targets of developed countries and nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing countries.”

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