APEC Leaders Aim Lower on Climate Change and Global Warming for Climate Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark

SINGAPORE, Nov. 16 (UPI) — Asia-Pacific leaders on Sunday conceded that a legally binding global-warming accord is not achievable at next month’s climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.

U.S. President Barack Obama and other leaders, gathered for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, backed a two-step approach proposed by Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, who is leading the group overseeing the U.N.-sponsored Copenhagen talks.

Under Rasmussen’s strategy, leaders would aim to produce in Copenhagen a “politically binding” agreement that would cover mitigation, adaption, finance and technology. This agreement would be a prelude to a later, legally binding accord.

“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. He flew to Singapore for a hastily convened breakfast meeting Sunday during the APEC forum.

The outcome in Copenhagen, Rasmussen said, should be a five- to eight-page document with “precise language of a comprehensive political agreement.”

“Even if we may not hammer out the last dots of a legally binding instrument, I do believe a politically binding agreement with specific commitment to mitigation and finance provides a strong basis for immediate action in the years to come,” Rasmussen said. “We are not aiming to let anyone off the hook.”

U.S. deputy national security adviser Mike Froman told reporters Sunday that the leaders had reached the conclusion that “it was unrealistic to expect a full, internationally legally binding agreement to be negotiated between now and when Copenhagen starts in 22 days.”

The aim of the Copenhagen summit, scheduled to begin Dec. 7, is to draw up a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, which expires in 2012.

APEC members — which include the United States and China, the world’s largest two emitters of carbon emissions — account for almost two-thirds of the world’s total emissions.

“We … reaffirm our commitment to tackle the threat of climate change and work towards an ambitious outcome in Copenhagen,” the APEC leaders said in their final declaration.

The APEC leaders, however, failed to set any specific targets for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

“Global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will need to be accompanied by measures, including financial assistance and technology transfer to developing economies for their adaptation to the adverse impact of climate change,” the declaration states.

Diane McFadzien, a spokeswoman for environmental group WWF, said APEC leaders had “missed a great opportunity to move the world closer to a fair, ambitious and binding agreement.”

She added that the leaders had to “take the bull by the horns, and finally tackle the difficult questions, instead of constantly avoiding them.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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