China, India and other developing countries will be allowed to exceed their carbon reduction targets without facing any sanctions under a proposed compromise being brokered by Britain at the Copenhagen climate summit.
Rich countries will be required to sign up to targets for cutting emissions below current levels and face penalties if they fail to meet them. But developing countries will only have to publish action plans.
The U.S. is considering the compromise, but is concerned that China, already the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, will be able to ignore its targets in order to accelerate its economic growth.
Under a proposal backed by Britain, rich countries are already being asked to pay $10 billion a year by 2012 and $100 billion a year by 2020 to poor countries to help them to adapt to climate change and pursue low carbon economic growth.
A British official said the compromise was needed because developing countries would not accept any treaty that forced them to adhere to targets.
"They are in a different place,” the official said. “They still need to grow their economies."
Rich countries would face sanctions for missing their targets, but the nature and extent of these have yet to be agreed. Denmark, which as the host nation is chairing the summit, supports Britain’s position.
A draft agreement produced by the Danes, a copy of which was leaked yesterday, says that developed countries must “commit to individual national economy-wide targets for 2020."