BONN, Germany Small island states, at risk from rising seas due to climate change, hinted on Tuesday at a compromise in order to kick-start U.N. talks on reaching a binding deal to curb global warming.
The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which represents 43 countries, said it could consider pledges on emissions cuts made voluntarily by rich nations if they were made into legally-binding targets.
The group has consistently demanded that industrialized countries toughen pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions they made at a climate conference last year in Cancun, Mexico.
The group could consider the emissions pledges under a legally-binding deal, as a first step to keep climate action on track before a review in 2015, also agreed in Mexico, said Leon Charles, AOSIS chief negotiator.
AOSIS has led calls among developing nations for ambitious targets, demanding that world temperatures rise by no more than 1.5 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels. Many experts say that target is already out of reach.
Analysts say the pledges made so far would lead to a roughly 4 degrees C rise in average global temperatures.
"If we're going to get started urgently we need to provide the confidence which you can only get from a legal agreement, so let's take what we did in Cancun and make it binding," Charles told Reuters on the sidelines of June 6-17 U.N. climate talks in Bonn, Germany.
About 90 developed and developing countries agreed in Mexico last year to take voluntary climate action through 2020.
AOSIS wanted rich countries to make their pledged emissions cuts binding under a new round of the Kyoto Protocol, whose targets end in 2012, and for developing nations to take on binding actions to slow growth in greenhouse gases.
It is unlikely that the United States, Japan and other industrialized countries could sign up to a new Kyoto round, however.
Negotiations have run out of time to launch a binding successor to Kyoto before present emissions targets end in 2012, the U.N.'s climate chief Christiana Figueres said on Monday.
Kyoto binds almost 40 industrialized countries to emissions cuts from 2008-2012. Poor and emerging economies want to extend the pact, while industrialized nations prefer to replace it, leading to a long-running stand-off.
Charles said that in the longer term, after several years, everything would be on the table.
"What we want then is a legally-binding instrument which encompasses everybody with different levels of responsibility," he said.
"The Kyoto Protocol is still the best platform because there are rules, processes and procedures. These took a long time to develop, 7-10 years."
The U.S. Senate is only likely to ratify an agreement which explicitly tied developing countries, and in particular China, to stand behind their pledge under international law, which looks unsure at present.
(Reporting by Gerard Wynn, Editing by Janet Lawrence)