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Most World Leaders To Attend U.N. Climate Summit

Date: 02-Dec-09
Country: DENMARK/AUSTRALIA
Author: John Acher and James Grubel

Most World Leaders To Attend U.N. Climate Summit Photo: Vincent Kessler
Member of the European Parliament from France, Christine de Veyrac attends a debate on the upcoming Copenhagen summit on climate change in Strasbourg November 24, 2009.
Photo: Vincent Kessler

COPENHAGEN/CANBERRA - Most world leaders plan to attend a climate summit in Copenhagen this month, boosting chances that a new U.N. deal to fight climate change will be reached, host Denmark said on Tuesday.

The number of leaders planning to come to the December 7-18 talks had risen to 98 out of the 192 members of the United Nations, Denmark said. The number was up from 65 in a first count after invitations were sent last month.

"It gives me a strong feeling that we are on the right track," Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen told a news conference.

Many analysts say chances of healing deep rifts between rich and poor nations over how to fight global warming have improved after leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jibao have said they would come to Copenhagen.

Obama plans to attend on December 9, a day before he is due to collect the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. Most other leaders plan to come on December 17-18, pinning prestige on getting a deal done. Denmark has not issued a list of names.

In Australia, a government plan to introduce carbon trading was headed for defeat in the Senate after the opposition picked a new leader hostile to the scheme, which would be the biggest economic policy change in modern Australian history.

The United States is watching Australia's debate closely. A political agreement on carbon trading in Australia could help garner support for action from other countries.

Australia's new Liberal opposition leader Tony Abbott said conservative senators, many of them climate change skeptics, would reject governments plans for emissions trading laws if they were not deferred until early 2010.

ELECTION

Abbott said he believed in climate change but told reporters he was opposed to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's planned emissions trading scheme (ETS) model. Rejection by the Senate could trigger an early election in 2010.

"This is going to be a tough fight. But it will be a fight. You cannot win an election without a fight," said Abbott, a boxer in his university days who once studied for the priesthood.

Australia's Assistant Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the government would still push for its carbon trade laws to be passed this week, and said he hoped some opposition lawmakers would side with the government and defy Abbott.

He wants emissions trading to start in Australia in July 2011, covering 75 percent of emissions in the developed world's bigger per capita emitter.

The planned carbon trade scheme would be the biggest outside Europe, the cornerstone of European Union efforts to help avert warming that it says will cause more powerful cyclones, mudslides, desertification, species extinctions and rising seas.

But there are deep rifts to be resolved. India on Monday rejected as a "dead end" a draft Danish text that suggested a goal of halving world greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 from 1990 levels. Rasmussen said Denmark had issued no formal proposals.

Developing nations such as China and India want the rich to do far more, starting with cuts of 40 percent in their own emissions by 2020 below 1990 levels, before asking poorer developing nations to forsake fossil fuels.

In one brighter spot in the tortuous U.N. negotiations, most countries support a U.N. scheme that aims to reward developing nations for protecting their remaining forests. Trees soak up carbon dioxide as they grow.

Investors such as banks and some rich nations are pushing for the project to slow deforestation -- known as REDD -- potentially ushering in a carbon trading scheme from 2013 that could be worth billions of dollars a year. In Brussels, a report said that Europeans could help cut climate warming emissions to much safer levels for just 2 euros ($3) each per day, but they would also have to cut back on driving and meat eating.

(Editing by Jon Boyle)

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