U.S., China at odds over climate talks in 2010

OSLO Wed Feb 24, 2010 5:34pm GMT

A worker walks past a billboard as the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 installation disassembling works are in progress in Bella Center Copenhagen December 20, 2009. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

A worker walks past a billboard as the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 installation disassembling works are in progress in Bella Center Copenhagen December 20, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Ints Kalnins

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OSLO (Reuters) - The United States is at odds with China and other developing nations by favoring a Copenhagen climate accord as the blueprint in 2010 for a stronger deal to fight global warming, documents showed on Wednesday.

In a sign of hurdles ahead, developing nations are instead stressing U.N. texts worked out since 2007 to guide talks after the Copenhagen climate summit in December disappointed many nations by failing to agree a legally binding treaty.

A 5-page U.S. document outlining ideas for 2010 praises the non-binding Copenhagen Accord, the main outcome of the summit, as the basis for work due to culminate with a meeting of environment ministers in Cancun, Mexico, from November 29-December 10.

"We would welcome a further formalization of the Accord in Mexico," according to the U.S. submission dated February 22 and posted on the website of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat.

It says the accord led to "landmark outcomes that...provide the basis for an agreed outcome in Mexico."

The Copenhagen Accord seeks to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above pre-industrial times. It also promises aid for developing nations approaching $30 billion for 2010-12, rising to $100 billion a year from 2020.

Developing nations fear that the Accord could supplant a 1992 Climate Convention which, they say, stresses more clearly that rich nations must take the lead to avoid more floods, mudslides, sandstorms or rising ocean levels.

LEGITIMACY

A document from China says that existing U.N. texts are "the only legitimate basis for further negotiations." Elements of the Copenhagen Accord could be considered and "where appropriate" be built into negotiating texts, it says.

Other major emerging nations including India make similar points. Saudi Arabia, which has often expressed fears that a shift to cleaner renewable energies will undermine its oil exports, is more blunt.

"Since the 'Copenhagen Accord' has not been formally adopted, it has no legal status...and thus can't be used as basis or reference for further negotiations," it said.

The U.N. texts are more vague than the Copenhagen Accord and lack firm targets after disputes focused on, for instance, the depth of cuts in developed nations' greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. But developing nations reckon they are more balanced.

Government negotiators will first meet in Bonn, Germany, from April 9-11 to try to bridge differences. The head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, Yvo de Boer, said this week that it would be "very difficult" to agree a treaty in Mexico.

The Copenhagen Accord was not adopted by all 194 nations and was merely "noted" by delegates after opposition from a handful of developing nations including Sudan and Bolivia.

About 100 nations have since said they back the deal but China and India have not spelt out if they are willing to be listed among associates of the deal -- even though their leaders negotiated the text with U.S. President Barack Obama.

A European Union document also emphasizes existing U.N. texts but sees a role for the Accord. "The Copenhagen Accord provides important additional input and guidance needed for the further elaboration and finalization of these texts," it says.

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