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AP Florida

U.S., China offer no new emissions cuts at summit

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 23, 2013 at 11:06 PM
COPENHAGEN -

A diplomatic frenzy enveloped the final day of the U.N. climate conference today, with President Barack Obama meeting privately with China's premier as world leaders pressed to salvage a global warming accord amid deep divisions between rich and poor nations.

But neither Obama nor Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao offered any new commitments to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming as they addressed the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen. And Wen skipped a high-level meeting of 20 nations, sending an envoy instead.

"We are ready to get this done today but there has to be movement on all sides to recognize that is better for us to act rather than talk," Obama said, insisting on a transparent way to monitor each nation's pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Wen told delegates that China's voluntary targets of reducing its carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent will require "tremendous efforts."

"We will honor our word with real action," Wen said.

With the climate talks in disarray, Obama and Wen met for nearly an hour, and by Friday afternoon had taken some steps toward an agreement, senior Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, other leaders were working on a potential deal with greenhouse gas emission cuts that could work, said U.N. Environment Program Director Achim Steiner.

Diplomats and leaders had only a handful of hours left for high-level talks to find the "miracle" answer that the Brazilian president said was needed for over 110 leaders to sign a deal at the conference's finale. Frustration and discouragement outweighed hope in the addresses by world leaders to the conference Friday.

"It's a rollercoaster of emotions," Steiner said. He told The AP the chance of a meaningful deal was now better than 50-50, but the talks were "in crisis mode" and weary negotiators could still scuttle an accord with one or two outbursts.

"(But) a deal is on the table, it is doable," Steiner said.

Many delegates had been looking toward China and the U.S. - the world's two largest carbon polluters - to deepen their pledges to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. But that was not to be.

China has been criticized at the two-week offering stronger carbon emissions targets and for resisting international monitoring of its actions. After a morning meeting with 20 leaders, including Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said progress in the climate talks was being held back by China.

And the U.S. got its share of blame.

"President Obama was not very proactive. He didn't offer anything more," said delegate Thomas Negints, from Papua New Guinea. He said his country had hoped for "more on emissions, put more money on the table, take the lead."

Obama may eventually become known as "the man who killed Copenhagen," said Greenpeace U.S. Executive Director Phil Radford.

An early draft of the climate agreement, obtained by The Associated Press, called for rich countries to mobilize $30 billion over the next three years to help poor countries cope with the effects of global warming, scaling up to $100 billion a year by 2020.

But it called for continued negotiations on targets for emission cuts, with a deadline of a climate conference in Mexico City in December next year.

The lack of progress meant Obama changed the word "agreement" from his prepared speech to negotiators to "framework I just outlined."

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon told climate negotiators that "the finishing line is in sight," reminding them that "the world is watching."

And Brazilian president Luiz Lula da Silva told negotiators how frustrated he was that the job was left to heads of state after the talks ran until just before dawn Friday.

"I am not sure if such an angel or wise man will come down to this plenary and put in our minds the intelligence that we lacked," Lula said. "I believe in God. I believe in miracles."

To move the talks forward, Lula said Brazil, a developing country, would give money to help other developing countries cope with the costs of global warming.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the U.S. president met with world leaders Friday from wealthy nations like Australia, the United Kingdom, France and Germany and developing countries like Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Colombia.

China and Russia, both seen as key participants in climate change discussions, also were at the meeting with Obama.

In a diatribe against the U.S., Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez criticized the climate conference as undemocratic.

"There is a document that has been moving around, all sorts of documents that have been moving around, there is a real lack of transparency here," he said. "We reject any document that Obama will slip under the door."

The conference has been plagued by growing distrust between rich and poor nations. Both sides blamed the other for failing to take ambitions actions to tackle climate change. At one point, African delegates staged a partial boycott of the talks.

"It is now up to world leaders to decide," said Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren.

Carlgren, negotiating on behalf of the 27-nation European Union, blamed the Friday morning impasse on the Chinese for "blocking again and again," and on the U.S. for coming too late with an improved offer, a long-range climate aid program announced Thursday by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

A leading African delegate complained bitterly about the proposed declaration.

"It's weak. There's nothing ambitious in this text," said Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan, a leader of the developing nations bloc.

Any agreement was expected, at best, to envision emissions-cutting targets for rich nations and billions in climate aid for poor countries, but fall well short of the goal of a legally binding pact. If the political deal is done, it would still be seen by many as a setback, following two years of intense negotiations to agree on new emissions reductions and financial support for poorer nations.

China and the U.S had sought to give the negotiations a boost on Thursday with an announcement and a concession.

Clinton said Washington would press the world to come up with a climate aid fund amounting to $100 billion a year by 2020, a move that was quickly followed by an offer from China to open its reporting on actions to reduce carbon emissions to international review.

That issue - money to help poor nations cope with climate change and shift to clean energy - seemed to be where negotiators at the 193-nation conference could claim most success.

Pollution cuts and the best way to monitor those actions remained unresolved. And negotiators also didn't come to an agreement on an important procedural issue - just what legal form a future deal would take.

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