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Last minute talks seek to break deadlock over fossil-fuel emissions

Delegates are seeking a deal on cutting the use of fossil fuels as climate-change talks wrap up in Cancun on Friday. Developing nations insist that rich countries further slash emissions before they introduce curbs that could slow economic growth.


AFP - The world's climate negotiators were locked in intense last-minute talks Friday to break through logjams, with high hopes of finding a way to help poor nations but other issues proving intractable.

After working through the night at the beachside Mexican resort of Cancun, negotiators said it was increasingly likely that the two-week conference of more than 190 nations would run past its scheduled closing time late Friday.

"We have entered the new phase where it is not about each individual topic only. Now it's about the overall package," EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard told reporters as negotiators repeatedly postponed main meetings.

"Some of the package takes form. That is of course good. However, there are some important areas where we have not seen enough progress, and that is bad," she said.

Participants saw a growing consensus on how to set up a "climate fund," which would start making use of the hundreds of billions of dollars of aid pledged for developing countries worst affected by rising temperatures.

But delegates saw a number of other stumbling blocks -- on how to verify countries' pledges, on the role of markets in climate aid and, most prominently, on the future status of the landmark Kyoto Protocol.

German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen voiced frustration at "resistance" to more ambitious action on climate change, singling out top emitters the United States and China.

"Nobody is giving a piece of the puzzle to anyone else if they don't get a part," Roettgen told reporters.

"We must act now. For the next generation it will be too late," he said. "There is resistance from other countries that say we don't want to go this way. If the big emitters, the US and China, don't want to, we can't force them."

China, while pledging flexibility, has rejected a binding treaty on its carbon emissions. US President Barack Obama has pledged action but is hobbled after the rivals in the Republican Party swept mid-term elections.

In a gesture that startled observers in Cancun and at home, India on Thursday broke with China and said it would consider binding action, although not in the foreseeable future.

The Cancun talks have also been stuck on what do about the Kyoto Protocol, the landmark treaty whose obligations to cut carbon emissions run out at the end of 2012.

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday spoke by telephone with his Japanese counterpart Naoto Kan in hopes of breaking the deadlock at the conference, diplomats said.

Faced with the growing prospect that a new climate treaty is distant, the European Union has led calls to extend the Kyoto Protocol, which sets targets to cut emissions of "greenhouse gases" blamed for climate warming.

Japan has adamantly opposed a new Kyoto round, pointing out that the treaty named after its ancient capital covers only 30 percent of global emissions because China and the United States are not part of it.

Russia, a major exporter of carbon-intense fossil fuels, has backed Japan's position.

But participants voiced guarded optimism that the conference would decide on the future of the global fund to distribute aid.

"There is agreement and convergence, I would say, on what the foundation would be," Bangladesh's Environment Minister Hasan Mahmud said.

The European Union, Japan and the United States have led pledges of 100 billion dollars a year for poor nations, which many experts say are already suffering a rise in floods and drought as temperatures steadily mount.

Negotiators said that a dispute remained on whether wealthy nations would be required to provide half of the aid to help the poor adapt or if they could meet commitments through other means, such as sharing technology.

A broader issue is just how wealthy nations would raise the money, with some negotiators advocating levies on airplane and shipping fuel.

The talks also look likely to make headway on spelling out ways in which wealthy nations can help developing states preserve tropical forests -- a crucial way to combat climate change as lush vegetation counteracts pollution.

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