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Major Emitters Must Join Climate Pact: Australia

Date: 14-Dec-09
Country: DENMARK
Author: David Fogarty

COPENHAGEN - A U.N. climate pact must expand the circle of countries in the fight against warming, Australia said on Saturday, but officials at talks in Denmark have a long way to go to seal the outlines of a global deal.

Australia fears rising temperatures will trigger more intense bushfires and greater extremes of droughts and floods, threatening crops and livelihoods. It says all major greenhouse gas emitters should sign up to legally binding steps to reduce emissions.

"This is one of those situations where we're all in it," Australian Climate Change Minister Penny Wong told Reuters in an interview.

Draft U.N. climate text at climate talks in Copenhagen says the world should halve emissions by 2050, with rich nations making the largest portion of cuts.

The text only mentions that big developing nation emitters should take aspirational steps to curb the output of planet-warming gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels, language many rich nations say is unacceptable.

"That text is a reflection of where negotiators have got to but it's a long way from what we need and a long way from what we need to be working with," Wong said.

Australia, among the world's highest per-capita carbon emitters, says it will offer cash to help the developing world cope with climate change. It plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions between 5 and 25 percent below 2000 levels by 2020.

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries are meeting in Copenhagen during Dec 7-18 talks to try to finalize what hosts Denmark hopes will be a political agreement that ramps up the fight against climate warming.

More than 110 world leaders descend on Copenhagen next week to attend a summit to try to clinch a deal on deeper emissions cuts by rich nations, steps by developing nations their carbon pollution and finance to help the poor adapt to climate change.

The United Nations has said a full, legal treaty to expand or replace the existing Kyoto Protocol is out of reach at the talks after two years of troubled negotiations and is likely to be agreed some time in 2010.

Wong said it was crucial ministers and world leaders give the talks a stronger focus and that it was time to overcome the entrenched positions of a few people.

"Fundamentally what we need now is political ownership of these negotiations. This can no longer be about just one or two people putting a particular position that they've put for the past two years."

Host Denmark has given Australia a special role at the talks to try to help get an agreement.

"My view is very much that we need the key issues that are beyond agreement, beyond the possibility of agreement at the official level, being elevated to ministers and then to leaders.

She said agreeing on a global deal to limit the average rise in global temperatures to 2 degree Celsius needed participation from all major emitters.

"We're not going to get that unless we're able to expand the circle, expand the number of countries who are prepared to put actions on the table, who are prepared to come into an international arrangement."

(Editing by Michael Roddy)

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