No time for Copenhagen deal, says Obama

Leaders plan "first-stage" series of commitments at summit next month

Barack Obama said yesterday that there is not enough time left to secure a legally binding climate deal at the Copenhagen summit in December.

At a hastily arranged meeting in Singapore, he gave his support to Danish plans to aim for a first-stage series of commitments rather than a protocol, delaying a formal pact until next year at the earliest.

Contentious decisions such as emissions targets, financing and technology transfer will be postponed to the second stage. At the Copenhagen summit, leaders will merely try to reach an agreement which sends a strong message of intent.

The plan was proposed by Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister, who will chair the Copenhagen talks, which start on 7 December.
Rasmussen made it clear that insufficient progress had been made between the main players to make a final pact possible next month.

He said: "Given the time factor and the situation of individual countries we must, in the coming weeks, focus on what is possible and not let ourselves be distracted by what is not."

"The Copenhagen agreement should finally mandate continued legal negotiations and set a deadline for their conclusion."

This is likely to anger environmental groups, as well as some developing countries that are anxious to replace the Kyoto Protocol as soon as possible.

Michael Froman, US deputy national security adviser for economic affairs, said: "There was a realistic assessment ... by the leaders that it was unrealistic to expect a full internationally legally binding agreement to be negotiated between now and when Copenhagen starts in 22 days."

Climate change legislation in the US has been delayed in the senate. The postponement of a final deal would allow the senate to pass carbon-capping legislation, so that Obama could bring a 2020 target and financing pledges to the table at a UN climate meeting next year.

British climate change secretary Ed Miliband said that it was still possible to reach a broad agreement on carbon emissions targets.

There are other divisions between developed and developing nations that could prolong talks. It is unknown how the two biggest emitters of CO2, the US and China, plan to meet new reduction goals.


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