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Buy time with two-track climate pact-UK economist
* Nations should agree climate pact without US-economist
* Should agree minimum terms, use as agenda in 2010
* Plan would give US time to agree domestic climate bill
By Michael Szabo
LONDON, Dec 4 (Reuters) - A leading British economist said leaders at climate talks in Copenhagen next week should agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol without a U.S. commitment to cut its greenhouse gases.
Michael Grubb, a member of Britain's Committee on Climate Change and a professor at Cambridge University, said countries that signed up to Kyoto should agree on new emissions cuts.
The United States, which did not ratify Kyoto, should agree to use that decision as a platform for negotiations in 2010, giving the world's number two emitter another year to pass domestic climate change legislation.
"Kyoto signatories need to agree that future constraints on industrialised country emissions would be legally binding under international law and based on a common framework that would measure emissions in the same way," said Grubb, who also chairs an international network of climate academics.
"Then the new, overarching global treaty that the U.S. would sign up to next year would reference the signatories' decision," Grubb said, adding giving them more time to deliberate may lead to a deeper U.S. emissions reduction target.
Between Dec. 7-18, nearly 200 countries and some 100 world leaders will meet in the Danish capital to try to thrash out a successor to Kyoto, which expires in 2012.
Faultlines between rich and poor countries over sharing the burden of combating global warming, which scientists say will bring more floods, droughts, disease and famine, will likely dominate the Copenhagen agenda.
These disparities have widened in the past week after China and India offered firm targets following a U.S. call for a political agreement instead of a legally binding treaty in Copenhagen, due to it not having a domestic climate bill in place in time.
President Barack Obama has offered a 17 percent cut in U.S. emissions by 2020, from 2005 levels, a target consistent with climate bills making their way through Congress.
The House of Representatives passed a bill in June and a Senate committee last month approved similar legislation, but the climate issue has now taken a backseat to healthcare reform.
Critics question how other nations can trust the United States to adopt binding targets in 2010 under Grubb's proposal.
"The key is not trust but rather setting minimum conditions, making these the agenda for negotiations next year and saying the rest of the world will not proceed unilaterally if the U.S. or Congress cannot meet these requirements," Grubb told Reuters. (Reporting by Michael Szabo) ((email@example.com; +44 207 542 9242; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org))
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