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Planet Ark World Environment News US Aims To Mend Rich-Poor Climate Split

Date: 25-May-09
Country: NORWAY/US
Author: Alister Doyle and Gerard Wynn

OSLO/LONDON - The United States will try to persuade rich and poor countries to share the burden of fighting climate change next week, with a big US pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions likely to help mend ties.

Washington will hold talks among major economies, including China, the European Union, Russia, India and Japan, in Paris on May 25 and 26 to search for common ground on issues such as how to cut fossil fuel use and promote clean technologies.

"The United States (wants) tough mid-term targets for developed countries" to cut emissions, twinned with "significant actions" by poorer nations to slow their rising emissions, Todd Stern, US Special Envoy for Climate Change, told Reuters. He said the Paris process may focus more on principles than seeking new targets and dates for greenhouse gas cuts.

Separately, pro-green business leaders will meet in Denmark on May 24 and 26 to work out a "Copenhagen Call" to governments to agree a robust new UN climate treaty.

US President Barack Obama's fight against global warming got a boost on Thursday when a key congressional panel embraced his plan to create a new, market-driven system for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

CHINA, INDIA

The bill, which faces months of hurdles before it could be voted into law, aims to cut US emissions of heat-trapping gases by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. It is a step to curb global warming, which according to the UN Climate Panel will bring more droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

But developing nations led by China and India want the rich to cut by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, blaming them for causing climate change since the Industrial Revolution.

US greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, were 16 percent above 1990 levels in 2005.

Analysts said Thursday's vote by the US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee in favour of cuts in emissions would help US climate credibility abroad after minimal action under former President George W. Bush.

"The...Act will allow the United States to help lead the efforts toward a global agreement," said Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change.

Bush's policies foresaw a peak in US emissions only in 2025, at odds with US industrial allies in the existing UN Kyoto Protocol that seeks cuts in emissions of at least 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

Yvo de Boer, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, said the Paris talks could "hugely help" UN negotiations if the major emitters, accounting for about 80 percent of world emissions, could ease their differences.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and heads of companies such as Britain's BP, France's Alstom and China National Offshore Oil Corp will push at next week's meeting in Copenhagen for clearer carbon emissions rules to guide investors.

Tim Flannery, an Australian scientist and chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council which is among organisers of the talks, said it was wrong to view businesses as always obstructing climate action.

"Business needs certainty in order to invest, the job is very large, and the sooner we get a global agreement with general targets, the better for everyone," he said.

"We understand that whatever comes out of climate negotiations might not be perfect, but we want clarity," said Bjorn Stigson, President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

(Additional reporting by David Fogarty in Singapore, Tom Doggett, Richard Cowan and Deborah Zabarenko in Washington, Anna Ringstrom in Copenhagen)

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