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Draft Deal Gives Lift To Flagging Climate Talks

Environmental activists of the Danish organization MS ActionAid demonstrate in Copenhagen.
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) -- A draft climate pact unveiled today revived hopes that UN talks might be able to pin down an international deal to fight global warming, but developing nations said they needed more cash from the rich.

With less than a week until more than 110 world leaders descend on the talks, the proposal that would at least halve global emissions by 2050 sought to bridge some of the long-standing rifts between rich and poor nations.

A European Union offer of 7.3 billion euros ($10.8 billion) of climate aid over the next three years was welcomed by the United Nations and the Danish hosts of the December 7-18 talks in Copenhagen.

"Things are progressing," said Connie Hedegaard, the Danish minister who presides at the negotiations.

The first four days of talks moved so slowly that European Commission delegate Karl Falkenberg joked today that progress was only visible under a magnifying glass.

Yvo de Boer, head of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, said the draft text marked a "step change" in the negotiations. "It's time to focus on the bigger picture," he told reporters.

The documents propose a global emissions goal for 2050, a target developing countries have opposed in the past, and omits figures for how many billions of dollars rich nations should give poorer ones to help them tackle climate change.

The text is also vague on when greenhouse-gas emissions should peak.

China, now the world's largest emitter, said rich nations needed to provide long-term cash if they wanted the developing world to agree long-term emissions goals.

"I doubt the sincerity of developed countries in their commitment. Why are they not talking about a commitment of providing funds through 2050? That will make them credible when they are asking for an emissions reduction by 2050," said Deputy Foreign Minister He Yafei.

African nations said they were still considering the draft, but were also unhappy about financing.

"What will it be used for? The developed countries found $1.4 trillion to combat the financial crisis. Now they're offering just $10 billion to fight climate change," said Kemal Djemouai, the Algerian chair of the African Group of nations.

Small islands that face being washed away by rising seas also put out a far more ambitious draft proposal they said was a minimum needed to ward off disastrous climate change.

They want a legally binding pact that Denmark says is now almost impossible to achieve, and one delegate from the tiny island state of Tuvalu warned that leaders of the most vulnerable states might prefer no deal to a toothless one.

Chief U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern said the draft was a "constructive text" but a deal still hung in the balance.

Australia also gave a cautious response. "We've got a lot of work to do," Climate Change Minister Penny Wong told reporters in Copenhagen.

"Primarily the problem is this is not a document capable of delivering the environmental outcome the world needs."

'Very, Very Difficult'

The draft text covers both an extension of the existing UN Kyoto Protocol, whose first phase ends in 2012, and a parallel track of talks that draws in those outside Kyoto, including the United States.

The text offers a range for global cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, of at least 50 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels.

Developing nations led by China and India have in the past rejected signing up for a halving of world emissions by 2050 without more stringent short-term goals for developed nations.

For these emissions cuts the draft agreement proposes an average range laid out by a UN panel of climate scientists in 2007, of at least 25-40 percent, also from 1990 levels.

This might be acceptable to developing nations, though many have asked for more, but emissions cuts pledged so far from recession-hit developed nations total only about 14-18 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels.

"This is one of the main obstacles. We know that this is going to be very, very difficult," said Hedegaard, although she added that the goal was closer than ever before.

The text said developing nations, which say they need to emit more as they curb poverty, should either make a "substantial deviation" to slow the growth of their emissions by 2020 or slow growth 15-30 percent below projected levels.

This may create another obstacle by angering Japan, which today threatened to drop a pledge to cut carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2020 if the Kyoto Protocol is extended without emissions goals for the United States and China.

Businesses' unwillingness to share ideas and the remoteness of their summit from the main climate talks threatened to prevent a common industry voice that could cut the cost of a low-carbon shift, senior executives said today.

Senior executives met at a separate location several miles from the UN talks, and accepted that the business lobby was split on climate action that could disadvantage energy-intensive sectors, including cement and power generation.

"It's difficult to imagine one voice," Duke Energy Chief Executive Jim Rogers told Reuters.