APEC leaders douse hopes on climate pact

SINGAPORE, Nov 15, 2009 (AFP) - Asia-Pacific leaders on Sunday buried hopes a key UN meeting next month would forge a binding pact to combat climate change, saying talks would drag on well past the Copenhagen meeting.

Instead they backed a face-saving proposal from Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen -- who jetted in for hastily arranged talks in Singapore -- aimed at forging a political statement of intent at the December meeting.

World leaders leave after the declaration statement at the Presidential Palace during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Singapore on November 15, 2009. (AFP photo)

Complex negotiations towards a legally enforceable successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which expires in 2012, would then continue to work out differences between rich nations and developing countries including China.

At Sunday's talks attended by leaders including US President Barack Obama and China's Hu Jintao on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit, there was broad consensus this was the best option for the climate negotiations, officials said.

"There was an assessment by the leaders that it was unrealistic to expect a full, internationally legally-binding agreement to be negotiated between now and when Copenhagen starts in 22 days," US Deputy National Security Adviser Mike Froman told reporters.

Froman said Rasmussen told the meeting "he would seek to achieve a politically binding agreement that covered all the major elements of the negotiations" during the December 7-18 conference.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Mexican Prime Minister Felipe Calderon had convened the Singapore talks before the closing session of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

In a final declaration, APEC called for "an ambitious outcome in Copenhagen" but dropped a proposal included in earlier summit drafts to slash their greenhouse gas emissions to half their 1990 levels by 2050.

Environmental group WWF said the leaders had "missed a great opportunity to move the world closer to a fair, ambitious and binding agreement" in Copenhagen and that they should start solving the issue rather than merely discussing it.

"This does not look like a smart strategy to win the fight against climate change," spokeswoman Diane McFadzien said in a statement.

China's Hu told fellow APEC leaders that he hoped for "positive results" in Copenhagen and vowed his government was "ready to work together with all parties to achieve this goal."

The president repeated Beijing's position that the developed world must bear the brunt of emissions cuts and provide technology and financial help to poor countries to try to mitigate climate change.

He said developing countries should "explore a path of sustainable growth suited to their own conditions and development stages."

Arkady Dvorkovich, chief economic adviser to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, said the leaders "are ready to strike a political agreement which would give an impetus to the negotiations process."

Medvedev called for a "roadmap" to govern negotiations in 2010-2011 for a new treaty, he said.

Japanese leader Yukio Hatoyama told reporters he hoped to attend the Copenhagen talks and said he had pressed the other leaders gathered in Singapore to do the same.

Obama, speaking to fellow APEC leaders before the summit wrapped up, acknowledged the concerns of developing nations.

"We must seek a solution that will allow all nations to grow and raise living standards without polluting our atmosphere and wreaking havoc on our climate," he said.

"Such a solution cannot be possible without the participation of the APEC economies," he said.

Industrialised nations are pressing emerging giants such as China, India and Brazil, which are now huge emitters, to strengthen promises to tackle their own greenhouse gas output, but developing nations fear drastic cuts would impede their economic progress.

Source: AFP

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