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U.S. works to block targets at climate talks

The United States insisted Monday a "roadmap" for future global warming talks should not suggest potential targets for emissions cuts by rich nations, as a pivotal climate summit entered its final week.
Bali Climate Change
Delegates to the U.N. climate change conference pass environmental activists holding a global warming sign Monday in Bali, Indonesia.Ed Wray / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The United States insisted Monday a "roadmap" for future global warming talks should not suggest potential targets for emissions cuts by rich nations, as a pivotal climate summit entered its final week.

However, the U.N. climate chief, Yvo de Boer, said cutting emissions by up to 40 percent was crucial for reining-in rising temperatures and winning over investors who could provide many of the high-tech solutions needed to ward off catastrophe.

Prominent figures such as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Al Gore are to arrive in Bali in the coming days to provide momentum toward finalizing the "roadmap" that will eventually lead to a successor accord for the Kyoto Protocol.

In the meantime, delegates from nearly 190 countries were huddling behind closed doors and hammering out the wording for a negotiating text, which is expected to go through several revisions.

A draft document mentions targets for reducing the amount of pollutants pumped into the atmosphere, but in a nonbinding way.

Its preamble notes the widely accepted view that industrial nations' emissions should be cut by 25 percent to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and that global emissions need to peak in the next 10 to 15 years and then be dramatically slashed to half of 2000 levels by mid-century.

But most delegates and environmentalists said they expected the numbers to be removed from the final text — especially after the United States and several of its close major allies made it clear Monday they opposed mandatory targets.

'Test to watch'
"This is the test to watch this week," said Jennifer Morgan, spokeswoman for Climate Action Network, which is representing all the environmental groups. "This will show you whether governments are serious or not, whether they support these types of emissions cuts."

Harlan Watson, America's climate negotiator, said there were "many uncertainties" over the numbers and accepting them now would only limit the parameter of future discussions.

"Obviously there will need to be a lot of analysis done over the period of negotiations," he said of the range for emission cuts. "To start with a predetermined answer, we don't think is an appropriate thing to do."

The 1997 Kyoto pact, which was rejected by the United States, commits three dozen industrialized countries to cut their greenhouse gases by relatively modest average of 5 percent below 1990 levels before it expires in 2012.

Experts say a new deal will have to go farther if the world wants to head off the dire impacts of rising temperatures, from collapsing ice sheets to worsening droughts, flooding and diseases.

All eyes are on the United States, which experts say is either the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases or the second, behind China.

Many analysts say the best hope for an about face from Washington would come with a new administration. U.S. presidential elections are due late next year.

Gore, who shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for their efforts to raise awareness about global warming, agreed.

"The new president, whichever party wins the election, is likely to have to change the position on this climate crisis," the former U.S. vice president told The Associated Press in Oslo, Norway, before the Nobel award ceremony Monday.

"I do believe the U.S., soon, is to have a more constructive role," he said.

Kerry in attendance
U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who arrived in Bali on Sunday, cautioned, however, that one reason the U.S. Senate didn't support the 1997 pact was because it did not cover fast-growing developing countries like China and India.

"Everybody globally must somehow be part of this solution," he said.

De Boer, the U.N. climate chief, said he could only hope that specific targets would make their way into the final Bali roadmap.

"It's important to give a clear signal that that's where industrialized countries intend to go," de Boer said, adding that billions of dollars were waiting to be spent on everything from new environment-friendly technology to helping the most vulnerable countries adapt.

The European Union has pledged to accept binding emissions reductions of 20 percent by 2020.

Nuno Lacasta, climate director of Portugal, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, said the draft text's mention of 50 percent emissions cuts by 2050 was not out of line.

"What's important is that we are able to have milestones along the way, for which 2020 would be appropriate," he said.

Environmentalists said Monday they were satisfied so far with the progress of the talks but it was too early to declare them a success.

"We may be getting closer to a decision ... but we are still far removed from a political deal toward deep cuts in carbon emissions," said Hans Verolme, director of WWF's Global Climate Change Program.