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Mexican President Hopes Republicans Change on Climate

Mexico Climate Conference

Mexico's President Felipe Calderon speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Cancun, Mexico, Monday Nov. 29, 2010. Calderon is in Cancun to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference, the first full U.N. meeting since the letdown last December of the Copenhagen summit.AP Photo/Israel Leal

Arriving at an accord on climate change would be easier without the Republicans, some say.

Asked about the impact of the November election in the U.S. on global climate efforts, Mexican President Felipe Calderon says he can understand why U.S. voters in an economic crisis turned to the opposition party. But he hopes the Republicans will eventually accept the need to protect the planet's climate.

"I hope they can realize sooner or later how important it is for the future," Calderon said Monday.

The election of a Republican majority in the House of Representatives in the Nov. 2 elections has made it all but impossible to pass legislation to cap carbon emissions, Calderon argued, which would be essential for drawing other nations into a new, more stringent pact to succeed Kyoto, which expires in 2012.

In an echo of President Barack Obama, Calderon, a former Mexican energy secretary, said political leaders must explain better to their people that a climate-friendly transformation from polluting fossil fuels to renewable energy would actually boost their economies.

"We need to persuade people that we are going to help them to recover the economy, to recover their jobs -- and at the same time we need to take action in favor of new generations, and probably they can find their new jobs in this new green economy," he said.

Calderon said it was difficult to comment on a neighbor's internal affairs, but said that "the economic crisis in the United States was a setback to the quality of life for millions and millions of Americans, and it is a very important factor in the opinion of the people. I can understand that."

Asked whether he believed bigger developing nations, such as Mexico, would ever join with industrial nations in a new binding treaty on climate, Calderon said Mexico "has the will" to do it -- on condition it's done on the basis of "common but differentiated responsibilities," climate treaty language taken to signify that poorer countries would not be required to actually roll back emissions, but only to institute other controls.

But he cited "other countries, especially big emitters, that express the radical position that they will not accept by any means any kind of binding commitments."

Is China among them? "It could be China, and other countries," he replied.

But he quickly added that "in my experience, the Chinese government is starting to take action in terms of these issues, particularly in terms of the energy efficiency program, very aggressive."

Calderon, Mexico's president for the past four years, was animated and engaged in a 40-minute interview on the climate with the Associated Press. He's expected to take a personal hand next week in trying to resolve disputes over secondary treaty issues debated here, while the world waits for an end to the gridlock on a new global accord.

He lamented that the "big players" are stalling progress for everybody else, and said others "need to start already on what is possible."

As an example, he cited his government's soon-to-be-announced plan to replace traditional incandescent light bulbs with new energy-saving bulbs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.