U.N. climate chief watchful of Japan nuclear mishap

MEXICO CITY Thu Mar 24, 2011 10:00pm EDT

A handout photo from the Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency shows damage to the security gate for reactors No. 1 and No. 2 at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture northeastern Japan March 23, 2011. REUTERS/Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency via Kyodo/Handout

A handout photo from the Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency shows damage to the security gate for reactors No. 1 and No. 2 at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture northeastern Japan March 23, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency via Kyodo/Handout

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Climate change officials are watching to see if Japan's nuclear accident will prompt wealthy countries to scrap their own nuclear energy plans in favor of more traditional fuels that worsen global warming, a U.N. official said on Thursday.

The crisis at a Japanese nuclear plant damaged after a March 11 earthquake and tsunami has already led some other nations to reconsider or slow the development of nuclear plants in the near term, said Christiana Figueres, head of the climate change secretariat.

"It is very difficult to predict what we will see from here -- whether this will mean a slow development of nuclear energy and what that will mean for some countries' goals (to curb greenhouse gases)," she told reporters after a two-day conference in the Mexican capital.

Nuclear energy has been promoted by some as a non-carbon source of power and if fewer such plans come online, those countries will have to seek energy from other sources, she said.

"In the best cases, those will be renewable energy sources," she said.

Figueres' task is to lay the groundwork for the next U.N.-sponsored climate change summit due to take place in Durban, South Africa, in December. Among the building blocks for that meeting is creating a "green fund" to help poor countries cope with new climate change realities.

The meeting to start developing the Green Climate Fund, which had been postponed over disagreements about who should attend, will be held in Mexico City on April 28 and 29.

Climate talks in December committed rich countries to finance $100 billion a year in climate aid for poor countries from 2020.

That was one of the modest goals achieved during the last major climate summit, which failed to reach a binding deal to limit greenhouses gases like tailpipe exhaust and industrial smog.

The fund was part of a package that included steps to protect tropical forests and share clean technologies.

Increasing aid is meant to help developing nations curb their greenhouse gas emissions by shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy and to help them adapt to the effects of heat waves, droughts, floods, storms and rising sea levels.

(Reporting by Patrick Rucker; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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