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Leaders say prospects bleak for climate accord

Leaders say prospects bleak for climate accord

Singapore: Asia-Pacific leaders agreed a binding global-warming accord at next month’s climate summit in Copenhagen is out of reach and aimed to strike a political deal that would lock-in country-specific commitments.

“Even if we may not hammer out the last dots of a legally binding instrument, I do believe a political binding agreement with specific commitment to mitigation and finance provides a strong basis for immediate action in the years to come," said Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, who is leading the group overseeing the UN-sponsored climate talks.

Rasmussen flew overnight to Singapore to brief leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, including President Barack Obama, who are meeting for an annual summit. The leaders generally backed Rasmussen’s proposal, Michael Froman, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, told reporters.

There was an “assessment by the leaders that it was unrealistic to expect a full, internationally legally binding agreement to be negotiated between now and when Copenhagen starts in 22 days," he said. They thought it was important that Copenhagen be an important step forward.

The statements by members of a group that includes the world’s largest two emitters, the US and China, scale back expectations for the Copenhagen meeting, where negotiators from nearly 200 countries set a deadline to devise a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol treaty, which expires in 2012. Two years of talks have stalled as developing countries call on richer nations to cut output first.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said a political agreement on climate change can give impetus to further negotiations, his chief aide, Arkady Dvorkovich, told reporters. “The heads of state said they are ready to strike a political agreement," the aide said.

Rasmussen proposed a new, two-stage strategy to reach a binding agreement on reducing greenhouse gases. The outcome in Copenhagen should be a five-eight page document with “precise language of a comprehensive political agreement," he said.

“We are not aiming to let anyone off the hook," Rasmussen said. “We are trying to create a framework that will allow everybody to commit."

Climate talks have been hung up by disagreements between developed and emerging economies on binding emissions targets. UN officials have previously said a treaty was unlikely to emerge from the Copenhagen summit.

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