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The US pledge to cut carbon emissions is contingent on contributions from emerging economies.
The US pledge to cut carbon emissions is contingent on contributions from emerging economies.

Copenhagen forecast brightens

In the weeks before the Copenhagen climate change summit, hopes for a new binding global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions are rising.

With less than two weeks to go before the start of the Copenhagen climate change summit, hopes for a new binding global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions are rising. The new "can do" attitude of world leaders who have rallied to the cause in recent days is dispelling previous gloom about the outcome of next month's meeting, which is expected to host 85 heads of state and government.

"An agreement is within reach. We must seal a deal in Copenhagen," the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said on Friday. "Our common goal is to achieve a firm foundation for a legally binding climate treaty as early as possible in 2010. "I am confident we are on track to do this. Each week brings new commitments and pledges from industrialised countries, emerging economies and developing countries alike."

Mr Ban, the French president Nicolas Sarkozy and the Danish prime minister Lars Rasmussen were attending the 53-nation Commonwealth summit as special guests to put the case for an international consensus on climate change mitigation. Nearly half of Commonwealth members are small island-states under threat from rising sea levels and developing nations seeking financial aid from rich governments to cope with climate change.

Mr Rasmussen urged developed countries to deliver firm commitments on cutting greenhouse gas output and "up front" financing for poor countries. "We cannot leave Copenhagen without major countries putting figures on the table, and industrialised countries must lead the way," he said. Britain and France offered last week to start a US$10 billion (Dh36.7bn) per year climate change fund for developing nations. Britain said it had already set aside $1.3bn to be paid into the Copenhagen Launch Fund over the next three years, well before any new climate change pact could take effect.

"We face a climate change emergency. We cannot wait until 2013 to begin taking action," said Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, at the summit. "Poorer countries must have an understanding that the richer countries will help them adapt to climate change and make the necessary adjustments in their economies," he added on his website. "We have got to provide some money to help that. Britain will do so, the rest of Europe will do so and I believe America will do so as well."

Advances in climate change negotiations last week also included a US offer to cut carbon emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020. The pledge is contingent on any climate change agreement including "robust mitigation contributions from China and the other emerging economies", the White House said. The Kyoto Protocol on climate change, to which the US was not a signatory, set 1990 as the benchmark year against which 2012 emissions targets would be measured. The Copenhagen talks are aimed at finding a replacement for the Kyoto pact, which is widely acknowledged to have failed.

China said last week it would cut the intensity of its carbon emissions by 40 per cent to 45 per cent per unit of GDP by 2020 compared to 2005 levels. While Washington welcomed the announcement, the EU said the commitment did not go far enough, as it would still allow a rise in total emissions from the world's biggest current contributor to atmospheric greenhouse gases. Moreover, Beijing said it would not allow foreign checks on its progress.

Among other key emerging economies, India said yesterday for the first time that it was willing to commit to targets for reducing carbon emissions. "India is willing to sign on to an ambitious global target for emissions reductions or limiting temperature increases, but this must be accompanied by an equitable burden-sharing paradigm," said Manmohan Singh, the prime minister. The EU said it might increase its 2020 target for emissions cuts from 1990 levels to 30 per cent from 20 per cent. The offer is contingent on what it termed an "ambitious" global agreement on climate change being reached.

South Korea, Brazil and Russia have also come forward in the past month with offers to reduce emissions. "It is clear to the world: the Copenhagen deadline works. All across the globe, things are moving," said Connie Hedegaard, the Danish environment minister who will chair the talks in Copenhagen. A few holdouts, however, remain unconvinced. Peter Kent, the Canadian minister of state for foreign affairs, said there was a consensus within the Commonwealth that a deal in Copenhagen was unlikely.

Some developing nations have said the US offer lacked ambition. "For many small island states, President Obama's offer appears grossly irresponsible and kills all hope for Copenhagen," the Papua New Guinean prime minister Michael Somare said on Friday. @Email:tcarlisle@thenational.ae

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