OSLO (Reuters) - Rich nations should not wait for the election of a new U.S. president before making progress on agreeing on ambitious 2020 greenhouse gas cuts, the chair of a U.N. committee said on Monday ahead of climate talks in Ghana.
Developed nations can work on details of a new climate pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol at August 21-27 talks in Accra despite uncertainty about U.S. policies, said Harald Dovland, a Norwegian official who chairs meetings among Kyoto backers.
“Many of the developed industrialized countries are not very keen on coming forward with strong commitments post-2012 without knowing what the U.S. is doing,” he told Reuters.
“We could do some practical good work at this stage,” without waiting for the U.S. November election, he said.
More than 190 nations agreed last year to work out a new global warming treaty by the end of 2009 as part of a strategy to limit temperature rises that could cause heatwaves, droughts, floods, more powerful storms and rising seas.
Both Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain have said they would toughen U.S. policies if they win the November election. President George W. Bush rejected Kyoto, saying it was too costly and wrongly excluded goals for developing nations.
Dovland noted that the 37 countries which have emissions limits under Kyoto agreed last year to be guided in negotiations by a non-binding goal of cutting emissions by between 25 and 40 percent by 2020 below 1990 levels.
But few countries have discussed such deep cuts. Among the strictest targets, the European Union has said it will cut emissions by 20 percent, or by 30 percent if others follow suit.
“If I could be the dictator of the world it would come out as minus 30 -- that would be what we should aim for 2020,” Dovland said. He added: “But as you know I am not the dictator of the world.”
He said that he hoped to return to the issue of overall cuts at a next meeting after Ghana in Poland in December. “My hope is to see if we can make it a little more binding,” he said.
The Kyoto Protocol now obliges cuts in emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars, of an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.
Dovland chairs talks about new commitments for Kyoto countries. A separate group is looking at goals for outsiders, including the United States and countries such as China and India. The Ghana talks are the third so far this year.
He said he hoped that Accra could make progress on new rules for a Kyoto scheme under which rich nations cut greenhouse gases in developing countries, by investing in wind or solar power, for instance, and claim credits at home for the emissions cuts.
Accra will also look at particular elements of a deal, such as the role of the forestry sector or whether to allow credits for nuclear power as part of a shift from fossil fuels.
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Editing by Robin Pomeroy
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