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World

US stepping up but divide over climate measures remains, Gabriel says

A clear split between industrialized and emerging nations over who should bear the financial burden of climate change remains unresolved following a climate conference in Washington, says Germany's Environment Minister.

Smoke billows from a smoke stack

Developed and emerging economies will need to come together for a global climate deal

Sigmar Gabriel said at the Major Economies Forum on Tuesday that developing countries had made "no movement" on committing to binding emissions targets.

He said however he was still highly optimistic that a follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol - which limits greenhouse gas emissions and expires in 2012 - could be reached at an international climate meeting in Copenhagen in December.

The two-day Washington conference was the latest in a series of meetings meant to jump-start climate talks in advance of the December meeting.

Gabriel hailed an apparent turnaround in the US approach to fighting climate change, saying he was glad "the Americans are no longer standing aside but are participating actively in negotiations about climate protection.

"The atmosphere in the negotiations is completely different from how it used to be under the previous US administration," he said.

But Gabriel said it was an "open question" as to whether and to what extent emerging economies would engage in setting obligatory emissions reduction goals.

"Today there was no movement in this respect. It still is an open question if the emerging countries are ready for binding agreements," he said.

Rising economic powers such as China and India argue that rich, industrialized nations should assume the majority of the costs of climate protection.

Europe still shepherd

Sigmar Gabriel

Sigmar Gabriel says the US has come a long way

Gabriel said Europe was still leading the way in global efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. He said he could "confidently say that the US is still far away" from playing a leadership role on the global warming issue.

He said a lot had changed since the Bush era but that greater commitments from industrialized nations, including the US, would be necessary to seal a global deal.

"It was very clear that the Americans are moving a lot," he told reporters during a break from the meeting. "Measured by what Europeans believe needs to be done to fight climate change, we're still very far apart from each other."

US President Barack Obama wants cuts in US emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases of around 15 percent by 2020. This would bring US emissions back to 1990 levels.

The EU has promised a 20 percent cut in emissions below 1990 levels by 2020, and has said it would target a 30 percent cut if other developed nations also pledged to do so.

"Europe still has this leadership role, but we would happily share it with the Americans," Gabriel said.

New dawn?

US President Barack Obama, center, and Hillary Clinton, right

Obama wants to see the US lead the way in climate change talks

The US pledged at the Washington conference to make up for lost time in the fight against climate change. At the gathering's opening, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told diplomats that her country was now ready to lead the fight against climate change.

Obama "and his entire administration are committed to addressing this issue and we will act," Clinton told delegates.

On Monday, Obama received delegates from nations participating in the Washington summit. After a group meeting, Obama hosted Gabriel and the other delegation heads in individual discussion sessions.

The major economies represented at the meeting included Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa and the US.

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