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October 20, 2009

World leaders told to seal climate deal in person

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain urged world leaders on Monday to turn up in person to salvage a U.N. climate deal in Copenhagen in December, and Australia and India outlined ways to curb their greenhouse gases.

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown speaks at the Major Economies Forum in central London October 19, 2009. Britain urged world leaders on Monday to turn up in person to salvage a U.N. climate deal in Copenhagen in December, as Australia and India outlined steps to rein in their greenhouse gas emissions. (REUTERS/Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool)

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told representatives of 17 major emitters meeting in London that success was still within reach for 190-nation talks in Denmark from Dec. 7 to 18, up to now intended as a gathering for environment ministers.

"We must frankly face the plain fact that our negotiators are not getting to agreement quickly enough," he said.

"Leaders must engage directly to break the impasse," he told the two-day talks ending on Monday. "I've said I'll go to Copenhagen, and I'm encouraging them to make the same commitment."

Talks are bogged down in disputes between industrialised and developing countries over how to share out curbs on emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels. Just one week of formal talks remains before Copenhagen, in Barcelona in early November.

The two-year U.N. talks launched in Bali, Indonesia, in 2007 are particularly stuck on how big carbon cuts recession-hit rich countries should make by 2020, and how much they should pay developing countries to fight global warming.

Among signs of action on Monday, Australian Climate Minister Penny Wong said the government would bring carbon trade legislation back to parliament on Thursday and will demand a vote on the controversial laws before the end of November.


The conservative opposition on Sunday demanded changes to the scheme, already rejected once by the upper house to avert a second defeat that would give Prime Minister Kevin Rudd an excuse to call a possible snap election.

The government, which is ahead in opinion polls and could benefit from an election, wants to start carbon trading from July 2011, putting a price on greenhouse gas and helping curb emissions in one of world's highest per capita polluters.

The Australian scheme will cover 75 percent of Australian emissions from 1,000 of the biggest companies and be the second domestic trading platform outside Europe. Companies will need a permit for every tonne of carbon they emit.

An Indian newspaper said Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh wanted New Delhi to accept curbs on the country's rising carbon emissions, dropping insistence that they should hinge on new finance and technology from rich nations.

"We should be pragmatic and constructive, not argumentative and polemical," The Times of India quoted Ramesh as writing in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

In an interview with Reuters on Friday, Ramesh signalled a willingness to make compromises to win a deal.

India, China and other big developing countries fear they will be hard hit by climate change and say it is in their national interest to try to limit the effects more extreme droughts, floods, rising seas and melting glaciers that feed major rivers.

The London talks of the Major Economies Forum focus on how to turn a patchwork of national policy plans, from China to the United States, into a deal. Countries attending account for 80 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

"The rich countries in the Major Economies Forum must urgently put new money on the table," said Friends of the Earth Climate Campaigner Asad Rehman.

A big sticking point for Copenhagen is that the United States, the only industrialised country outside the current Kyoto Protocol for curbing emissions, is unlikely to pass carbon-cutting laws by December.

In Cape Town, South Africa pointed to one area of soaring emissions -- next year's soccer World Cup. Emissions would leap almost tenfold from a 2006 benchmark set by Germany, partly because air travel would be added to the count.

"The FIFA 2010 World Cup will have the largest carbon footprint of any major event with a goal to be carbon neutral," Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said.

The Star 19.10.2009

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