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Climate change

November 15, 2009

Support for a delay proposed by Denmark, which will host a United Nations meeting on climate change next month, essentially lowers expectations for the summit and puts the focus on 2010 – or later.

Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao at an APEC meeting in Singapore
The US and Chinese presidents represent two of the world's biggest carbon emittersImage: AP

As anticipation grows ahead of the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen next month, hopes are dwindling that participating nations will agree on a binding pact to lower carbon emissions.

On Sunday, US President Barack Obama and other world leaders attending the APEC conference in Singapore showed support for delaying such a binding pact until a later time. The Copenhagen summit will seek to draw up a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, who flew to Singapore to address leaders at the Asia-Pacific meeting, proposed a compromise that would call for continued negotiations and set a deadline for their conclusion.

"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 possible," Rasmussen said at the meeting.

Rich-poor divide

Melting icebergs in the Arctic Sea
Rising sea levels add urgency to achieving an agreement on carbon emissionsImage: AP

A major obstacle to reaching a binding agreement by next month is a disagreement between developed and developing countries.

Chinese President Hu Jintao, while not explicitly backing a delay for a binding agreement, instead emphasized the need for wealthy nations to give financial support to developing nations who cannot fight climate change on their own.

As news of support for a delay spread, environmental activists and other world leaders denounced the idea.

The environmental lobby group WWF released a statement saying the delay "does not look like a smart startegy to win the fight against climate change."

French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo took aim specifically at the United States on Sunday, saying Washington is the main obstacle to reaching a binding agreement in Copenhagen.

"(The United States is) the biggest per capita emitter and it's saying 'I'd like to but I can't.' That's the issue," he said.

Editor: Rick Demarest