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United Nations climate chief optimistic about US election's role in crafting global treaty

The U.N. climate chief said Thursday he is encouraged by the climate views of the three contenders in the U.S. presidential election.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The U.N. climate chief said Thursday he is encouraged by the climate views of the three contenders in the U.S. presidential election.

Republican John McCain and Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have all expressed support for some form of mandatory controls on carbon emissions, usually involving a "cap-and-trade" system that allows polluters to buy and sell allowances.

"I'm really encouraged to see that all three of the presidential front-runners have climate change high on their agenda," Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. climate treaty secretariat, told The Associated Press. "So whichever one of them wins, I think it will be good news for climate change policy."

That's not to say de Boer would prefer the change that will come when President Bush leaves office next January and a new president occupies the White House.

"I see the current administration still engaging very constructively in the negotiations. There's a stated concern from President Bush on climate change," he said.

De Boer also described efforts to reach a global warming pact that all nations will sign and ratify as a Herculean effort to balance the competing interests of rich and poorer nations.

"The challenge that lies ahead of us is huge," he told reporters at a news conference. "Rich country engagement hinges on developing country engagement. Developing country engagement hinges on rich country engagement. And the connection between the two is finance and technology. Those pieces really need to come together."

De Boer said last week's first round of climate negotiations in Bangkok involving representatives from 163 countries was a good beginning.

The new global warming pact is being crafted to succeed the first phase of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. It requires 37 industrialized nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

The United States is the only industrialized nation not to have ratified Kyoto, but it agreed with nearly 200 other nations at a conference in Bali in December to negotiate a new agreement by the end of 2009.

A series of three climate conferences is scheduled for this year, culminating in December in Poznan, Poland.

Delegates to the Bangkok meeting said significant differences remain over demands from the U.S. and Japan for developing countries to accept binding targets as part of a pact to stabilize greenhouse gases in the next 10 to 15 years and cut them in half by 2050.


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