COPENHAGEN Environment ministers made progress on Tuesday toward a scaled-down climate deal in Copenhagen next month, with Washington facing pressure to promise deep cuts by 2020 in greenhouse gas emissions.
"We still need more movement," Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told a news conference at the end of two days of talks among 40 ministers from around the world on a deal meant to be agreed at the December 7-18 meeting in Denmark.
"Industrialized countries must raise their targets and financial commitments further...I look to the United States for a numerical mid-term target and a clear commitment on finance," he told a news conference.
The United States is the second greenhouse gas emitter behind China but U.S. carbon-capping legislation is stalled in the U.S. Senate. Many nations say that Washington should promise a deep 2020 cut to help unlock a deal in Copenhagen.
"In the end, an agreement in Copenhagen will depend on an American number. Without a clear and ambitious number the whole agreement will be in danger," Swedish Environment Minister Anders Carlgren, whose country holds the rotating European Union presidency, told Reuters.
Ministers said the informal December 16-17 talks, the last big meeting before Copenhagen, marked a constructive step.
"My feeling is that it looks better today than when we started meeting," Danish Climate and Energy Minister Connie Hedegaard told a news conference after the meeting.
TIME TOO SHORT
Several ministers said there was widening acceptance of the idea that the summit would agree a politically binding accord on key issues but that time was too short to agree a legally binding treaty this year as originally hoped.
"We made progress but we have a long way to go," Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said. "The next six months are going to be much more intensive because you have to translate this politically binding agreement into a treaty."
Many developing nations have strongly opposed any delay of a full treaty, saying their citizens are most vulnerable to impacts of climate change such as heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, rising sea levels, disease or species extinctions.
Denmark envisages a political deal that will include deep 2020 cuts in emissions by all prosperous nations, actions by poor nations to fight climate change and cash and technology to help the poor cope with global warming.
Ministers in Copenhagen welcomed U.S. President Barack Obama's statement after a summit in China that Copenhagen should end with a deal that has "immediate operational effect" even if the goal of a legally binding pact is no longer achievable.
Hedegaard said the looming deadline had helped bringing new commitments in recent weeks from nations such as the United States, Brazil, South Korea, Indonesia, Mexico and Norway.
Outside the conference center, a group of demonstrators fell over and played dead beside giant letters spelling "Delay Kills." They say Copenhagen must agree a full legal text or risk ever more deadly impacts from water shortages and hunger.
But others saw hope of a deal next month.
"Reports this week that Copenhagen is as dead as a dodo were wildly exaggerated," Kim Carstensen, head of the WWF's global climate initiative, said.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, host of the summit, said that Obama's acceptance of a proposed deal on key points in Copenhagen while delaying a full treaty implied U.S. willingness to promise clear 2020 targets for cuts.
"The American president endorsed our approach," he said.
(Editing by Michael Roddy)