WASHINGTON Tensions between developed and developing countries in global climate talks could hamper progress on U.N. agreements hammered out in Mexico last year, the U.S. climate envoy said on Wednesday.
At annual U.N. climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, last December, environment ministers agreed on modest steps to combat climate change, widely seen as saving the process from collapse.
Those included drafting guidelines on making emissions curbs more transparent, establishing a Green Fund, and helping developing countries adapt to global warming.
Negotiators hope to work on the issues at this year's first negotiator meeting, taking place this week in Bangkok, ahead of the annual meeting that will be held in South Africa late this year.
"If we did this, building the new institutions needed for a pragmatic international regime, this year could make a notable step forward," Todd Stern, the U.S. climate envoy, said in prepared remarks at a Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit in New York.
"Whether we will manage this however, is by no means clear," he said in the remarks obtained by Reuters.
Stern said long-existing tensions on whether rapidly developing countries like China, India, and Brazil should be exempted from emissions cuts have abated slightly but still remain.
The talks in Bangkok remained deadlocked on Wednesday over a debate on the agenda for negotiations with developing countries pushing for a greater focus on the fate of the Kyoto Protocol.
The United States is not a member of the protocol, in which developing countries have no obligations to cut emissions.
Stern said the United States is not opposed to any future plan that includes binding international obligations to cut emissions "if they genuinely apply to all the major players."
But he said that they are not necessary because "it is the national plans for countries, written into law and regulations that count and bind."
President Barack Obama has pledged that the United States, the world's second leading emitter after China, will cut emissions about 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
The goal is opposed by many Republicans however. A wide- ranging climate bill failed in the Senate last year.
In addition, Republicans and some Democrats in Congress hope to pass legislation that would stop or slow the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. The White House has said Obama would veto such legislation should it pass both in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate.