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UN Climate Chief Calls For 'Compromise' As Copenhagen Summit Nears

U.S. President Barack Obama said earlier today he would attend the summit.
(RFE/RL) -- Less than two weeks before the critical climate-change conference in Copenhagen, the top United Nations climate-change official is urging "cooperation and compromise."

"All countries must use the 11 remaining days to Copenhagen to work towards it in a spirit of cooperation and compromise," Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said at a press briefing in Bonn.

"The stakes are too high for more technical maneuvering. The stakes are too high for any country to be focused solely on national agendas. There is, in fact, no time to lose."

More than 15,000 officials from 192 countries are expected to attend the UN conference in Copenhagen from December 7 to 18 to try to reach an agreement to replace provisions of the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

The Kyoto Protocol requires industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions that cause global warming to 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

But talks have been hobbled by a rift between rich and poorer countries over who should cut emissions, by how much, and who should pay for helping poorer countries adapt to climate change and curb their own greenhouse-gas emissions.

The Danish hosts and the United Nations have already signaled it will be enough to nail down all the political elements, leaving the details, technical issues, and legal language to be filled in over the following year.

De Boer said that "clarity" was needed now about what the conference must deliver, insisting that there was "no Plan B for Copenhagen -- only Plan A, and Plan A stands for action."

He said Copenhagen must clearly record 2020 emission-cut targets by industrialized countries -- notably the United States, the world's second-largest polluter, behind China.

"We've had encouraging signals -- most recently a higher Russian pledge and indication by the U.S. administration that it will bring numbers to Copenhagen," de Boer said.

"But still, the aggregate pledges do not match up to the level of ambition indicated as necessary by science. So, industrialized nations must give a final push with ambitious leadership."

The UN says the targets announced by industrial countries for 2020 add up to reductions of up to 23 percent below 1990 levels.

That's less than the 25 to 40 percent a panel of UN climate scientists say is needed.

Action Needed

De Boer said developing countries "are keen to honor their part in taking action." But he also called for "clarity on the scope and extent" of their engagement.

"China, India, South Africa, Indonesia, Mexico, and others have significant climate-change strategies in place already. Most recently Brazil pledged to reduce its emissions by 36 to 39 percent against business as usual, and South Korea by -30 percent," de Boer said.

"Details are still needed as to how developing country action will be recorded at the international level."

De Boer said clarity was also needed on short-term and long-term financing for poorer states to adapt to climate change and to curb their own greenhouse-gas emissions, and the best way to deliver and manage those funds.

"Rich countries must put at least $10 billion a year on the table to kick-start immediate action up to 2012," de Boer said.

"And they must list what each country will provide and how funds will be raised to deliver very large, stable, and predictable finance going into the future, without constantly having to renegotiate those sums every few years."

De Boer said any agreement in Copenhagen should be followed by "immediate action in developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change, start to put themselves on a clean energy path, get the technology to do that, and build up their skills to deal with all of this."

U.S. President Barack Obama has also said he wants to see an agreement with "immediate operational effect." But his administration has until now been reluctant to put an emissions-reduction target on the table because the Senate has yet to pass a sweeping climate bill.

White House adviser Mike Froman today said Obama had decided to attend the summit on December 9 "to give momentum to the negotiations there."

De Boer welcomed the announcement, saying it was "critical" that Obama attended the summit.

"As I indicated, the world is very much looking to the United States to come forward with an emission-reduction target and to contribute international financial support to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change," he added.

U.S. officials said Obama will pledge to cut greenhouse-gas emissions in several stages, beginning with a 17 percent cut by 2020. That target reflects the still-unfinished climate legislation in Congress.