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Environment

Robust climate deal still possible in December: U.N.

OSLO (Reuters) - The world can still agree a robust U.N. climate deal in Copenhagen in December and will miss a unique opportunity by delaying talks into 2010, the senior U.N. climate official said on Wednesday.

Yvo De Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), pauses during the New Climate Framework session at the World Economic Forum annual meeting of the New Champions, in China's port city of Dalian September 11, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Lee

In the United States, a U.S. Senate committee continues hearings on a bill to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. But hopes have faded that any U.S. laws will be in place before the 190-nation talks in Denmark on December7-18.

“Time is running out,” Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told a telephone news conference.

The U.N. talks were launched in 2007 and the last set before Copenhagen is set for Barcelona, Spain, next week.

Rejecting suggestions that big decisions might have to be delayed into 2010, Yvo de Boer said Copenhagen was a “unique window of opportunity” for a deal including deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by rich nations.

He said that only details should be left for 2010.

“I believe that Copenhagen can and must agree the political essentials” for a long-term response to global warming, he said.

“What has to be absolutely clear is that we do not have another year to sit on our hands until Mexico,” where the next annual U.N. talks are due after Copenhagen.

Rich and poor nations are deadlocked about how to share out the burden of curbing emissions and aid to fund a deal. Some nations say more tough negotiations are likely in 2010 if Copenhagen ends with only a non-binding political deal.

In Shanghai, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern said the United States did not expect to reach an agreement on global warming with China during President Barack Obama’s visit to Beijing next month.

UNLOCK DEAL

“I don’t think we are getting any agreement per se,” Stern said.

A deal between the China and the United States -- the biggest emitters accounting for about 40 percent of greenhouse gases -- could help unlock a Copenhagen accord.

“Copenhagen can be a success,” he said. “There’s a deal to be had, but it doesn’t mean we can get it.”

The U.S. Senate’s problems in passing legislation were evident on Tuesday when a leading Democrat expressed concerns about a goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, a cut of about 7 percent below 1990 levels.

“I have serious reservations (about) the depth of the reduction target,” said Max Baucus, of Montana.

Republicans portrayed the legislation as a complicated plan that would be tantamount to a job-killing tax hike.

Developing countries led by China and India want the rich to cut emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 -- far deeper than cuts considered by the Senate -- to avoid the worst of droughts, floods, wildfires, and rising seas.

De Boer said Copenhagen has to agree deep cuts in emissions by each developed nation, actions for developing nations to start slowing the rise of their emissions, aid and technology to help the poor, and a system to govern finances.

In Canberra, Australia stepped up lobbying for Copenhagen. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd agreed to join a group of leaders who will act as friends of Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen to help promote the talks.

Additional reporting by Richard Cowan in Washington, Rujun Shen and David Stanway in Shanghai and James Grubel in Canberra; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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